The cornea around your iris and pupil is, under perfect circumstances, spherical. As light enters your eye, the cornea's job is to help focus that light, aiming it at your retina, which is in the back of your eye. What is the result if the cornea is not exactly round? The eye is not able to focus the light properly on a single focal point on your retina, and will cause your vision to be blurred. This condition is known as astigmatism.
Astigmatism is not a uncommon vision problem, and mostly comes with other vision issues such as nearsightedness or farsightedness. It often occurs during childhood and can cause eye fatigue, painful headaches and the tendency to squint when untreated. With children, it can cause challenges in the classroom, particularly with highly visual skills such as reading or writing. Those who work with particularly small or detailed objects or at a computer monitor for excessive periods of time might experience more difficulty with astigmatism.
Diagnosis of astigmatism starts with an eye test with an optometrist. Once detected, an automated refraction or a retinoscopy exam is performed to check the degree of astigmatism. Astigmatism is commonly tended to by contacts or glasses, for those who prefer a non-invasive procedure, or refractive surgery, which alters the flow of light onto the retina to readjust the focal point.
Toric lenses are commonly prescribed for astigmatism because they allow the light to curve more in one direction than another. Standard contact lenses have a tendency to shift when you close your eyes, even just to blink. With astigmatism, the smallest movement can cause blurred sight. Toric lenses are able to return to the same position right after you blink. Toric lenses can be found in soft or rigid lenses.
In some cases, astigmatism may also be corrected using laser surgery, or by orthokeratology (Ortho-K), a non-surgical procedure involving wearing rigid contact lenses to gradually reshape the cornea during the night. It's advisable to discuss options with your eye doctor to decide what the best option is for your needs.
Astigmatism can get better or worse over time, so be sure that you're frequently making appointments to see your eye doctor for a proper test. Additionally, be sure that your 'back-to-school' list includes a trip to an eye doctor. A considerable amount of your child's education (and playing) is predominantly a function of their vision. You can allow your child make the best of his or her schooling with a comprehensive eye exam, which will pick up any visual abnormalities before they begin to affect education, athletics, or other activities.