Astigma-what? Clearing Up Astigmatism

January 7th, 2016
doctor consulting patient at eye doctor appointment

Astigmatism is a commonly misunderstood vision problem. Here’s the skinny on all things astigmatism (uh-stigg-mah-tis-em). No. It’s not an eye disease. It’s a refractive error.

So, what’s a “refractive error?”

To “refract” means to make light change direction when it hits an object. In this case, your eye is the object.

For proper refraction, the eye should be a smooth sphere with a symmetrically rounded cornea (surface), like a basketball.

However, when astigmatism is present, the cornea is misshapen, making the eye oblong-shaped and asymmetrical, more like a football. One side of the cornea is either steeper or flatter than the other. These misshapen parts are called ‘principal meridians’. The light ends up bouncing off of these principal meridians in multiple directions (causing blurry vision) instead of one single focal point (clear vision).

Long story short: People with astigmatism have blurred or distorted vision at all distances.

If left uncorrected, astigmatism often leads to recurring headaches and bouts of “tired eyes” that make reading or working on a computer increasingly uncomfortable over time. So if you’re finding that you’re squinting a little more or needing more breaks to re-focus, it’s time to talk to your eye doctor.

The good news?

The word “astigmatism” sounds far scarier than the actual issue.

While not as common as hyperopia (farsighted – see well at a distance but not up-close) or myopia (nearsighted – see well up close but not at a distance), astigmatism is fairly widespread and can be treated relatively simply.

Historically, glasses were the only option for treating astigmatism. Then came toric contact lenses, which are weighted at the bottom to keep them in place in order to keep them from rotating when you blink.

But what about LASIK?

Ah, LASIK. Glad you asked. It’s a common misconception that people with astigmatism aren’t good LASIK candidates. Truth is, thanks to advances in laser technology, LASIK has successfully treated astigmatism in hundreds of thousands of patients around the world. So, before you think, “LASIK isn’t for me because I have astigmatism,” think again.

The only way to know if LASIK is right for you is by coming in for a free (yes, FREE) LASIK consultation with one of our knowledgeable, friendly LASIK counselors.

Schedule it now or ask all of your burning questions with our live chat. To chat, use the box at the bottom of your screen or click the “Chat Live” in the upper right-hand corner.

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