Did you know that approximately one in three Americans suffers from astigmatism? Although this refractive error doesn’t cause vision loss, it can impact your ability to complete daily tasks by blurring vision and distorting images.
Thankfully, since astigmatism is such a common refractive error, vision specialists have developed proven treatment methods to correct it. Keep reading to learn more about the causes of and treatments for astigmatism.
What Is Astigmatism?
Astigmatism is a common type of refractive error in which the cornea is more curved than it should be. A cornea without astigmatism is baseball-shaped. A cornea with astigmatism is more football-shaped, which causes objects to appear blurry. This refractive error can affect both near and distance vision.
The curvature of an eye with astigmatism causes light to bend unevenly when it enters your eye, which results in blurry vision. Here’s why:
Light enters the cornea, which directs the light to your retina. The retina creates signals that travel from the optic nerve to the brain, where the signals create images. Since light bends unevenly in an eye with astigmatism, the cornea can’t properly direct the light to the retina. This glitch in the system hinders your brain’s ability to create clear images, making objects appear blurry.
What Does Astigmatism Look Like?
Astigmatism prevents light from focusing properly on the retina due to the excessive bending of the light when it enters the cornea. As a result, your eye can only focus on part of the object you’re looking at, causing the object to appear blurry or wavy.
Common symptoms of astigmatism include the following:
- Blurry or wavy vision
- Difficulty seeing details and small print
- The presence of a glare or halos around lights
- Eye strain
What Causes Astigmatism to Develop?
Most cases of astigmatism are hereditary. Some cases of astigmatism are caused by the eyelid placing excess pressure on the cornea. While astigmatism is never caused by health conditions, it can be caused by:
- Eye injuries
- Complications from previous eye surgeries
How Is Astigmatism Diagnosed?
There are four different tests that ophthalmologists and optometrists use to diagnose astigmatism. Here’s a breakdown of each astigmatism test:
- Visual Acuity Test: Visual acuity is another way to describe visual clarity. A visual acuity test checks your vision. This is your standard eye exam.
- Refraction Test: A refraction test measures the amount of light that focuses and bends when it hits the cornea.
- Keratometry: Keratometry is a diagnostic test that measures the curvature of the cornea.
- Slit Lamp Exam: A slit lamp is a special type of microscope. Your eye doctor will shine the bright light on the microscope into your eye to examine each layer of your eye. The light’s brightness is adjustable.
How to Fix Astigmatism
Corrective glasses and contact lenses help those with astigmatism to see more clearly. While corrective lenses improve your visual acuity, they don’t address the underlying issue of astigmatism—namely, the cornea’s excess curvature.
If you want to correct the shape of your cornea, vision correction surgery is necessary. LASIK and PRK are the two most common vision correction surgeries that ophthalmologists use to treat astigmatism.
LASIK—which stands for Laser-Assisted in Situ Keratomileusis—is a type of eye surgery that corrects refractive errors, likeastigmatism, by reshaping the cornea. Here’s how the procedure works:
- The surgeon creates a corneal flap using a femtosecond laser.
- The surgeon removes the damaged cornea tissue with an excimer laser, which reshapes part of the cornea called the stroma. This allows light to focus properly on the retina, which enables your brain to produce clear pictures.
- The surgeon puts the corneal flap back into place.
PRK—which stands for Photorefractive Keratectomy—is another type of eye surgery used to correct refractive errors, like astigmatism. It does so by reshaping the cornea so light can focus properly on the retina. Here’s a breakdown of the procedure:
- The surgeon removes the epithelium, which is the cornea’s thin outer layer, with an excimer laser. This exposes the underlying corneal tissue.
- The surgeon uses the excimer laser to remove damaged tissue and reshape the cornea.
- After surgery, the epithelium naturally regenerates.
Both of these minimally invasive procedures correct astigmatism by reshaping the cornea, which makes vision clearer.
When to See Astigmatism Specialist
As soon as you notice your vision blurring or worsening in general, you should see an optometrist or ophthalmologist. Difficulty driving at night is another reason to seek professional vision care. People with astigmatism often see glares or halos around street lights and headlights of oncoming vehicles. This is a safety hazard, as the bright lights are distracting and can cause an accident.
Cleveland’s #1 LASIK Specialists
Are you ready to correct your astigmatism and say goodbye to blurry vision for good? Cleveland Eye Clinic is the name you can trust to provide the top-notch astigmatism treatments you need. Schedule an appointment with us to get started.
Want to know who will perform your LASIK procedure? Get to know our in-house LASIK specialists.