The cornea around your pupil and iris is, under perfect circumstances, round. When light hits your eye from all angles, the cornea's role is to focus that light, directing it toward your retina, which is in the anterior portion of your eye. But what does it mean when the cornea isn't perfectly spherical? The eye is not able to project the light correctly on one focus on your retina's surface, and will blur your vision. This condition is referred to as astigmatism.
Astigmatism is actually a fairly common vision problem, and mostly comes with other vision errors that require vision correction. Astigmatism oftentimes appears early in life and often causes eye fatigue, painful headaches and squinting when left untreated. With kids, it can lead to difficulty in the classroom, particularly with reading or other visual tasks. People who work with fine details or at a computer for long periods may experience more difficulty with astigmatism.
Diagnosis of astigmatism starts with a routine eye test with an optometrist. Once detected, an automated refraction or a retinoscopy exam is performed to check the amount of astigmatism. Astigmatism is easily corrected with contacts or glasses, or refractive surgery, which changes the flow of light onto the retina to readjust the focal point.
With contact lenses, the patient might be given toric lenses, which control the way the light bends when it enters the eye. Regular contacts have a tendency to move when you close your eyes, even just to blink. With astigmatism, the slightest movement can cause blurred vision. After you blink, toric lenses return to the same place on your eye to avoid this problem. You can find toric lenses as soft or rigid varieties, to be chosen depending on what is more comfortable for you.
Astigmatism can also be corrected by laser surgery, or by orthokeratology (Ortho-K), a non-surgical alternative involving the use of special hard lenses to slowly change the shape of the cornea. It's advisable to explore your options and alternatives with your optometrist in order to determine what the best option is for your needs.
Astigmatism can get better or worse gradually, so be sure that you're regularly seeing your eye care professional for a proper test. Additionally, be sure that your 'back-to-school' list includes a trip to an eye doctor. Most of your child's education (and playing) is largely visual. You can help your child get the most of his or her schooling with a thorough eye exam, which will pick up any visual abnormalities before they impact schooling, athletics, or other activities. It's important to know that astigmatism is highly treatable, and that the sooner to you seek to treat it, the better off your child will be.