Astigmatism is the result of having a cornea that is irregular in shape. The cornea is normally round. An astigmatic cornea is oblong or "football" shaped, resulting in a condition that generally causes eyestrain, headaches and blurry vision. Astigmatism is often associated with nearsightedness and farsightedness.
The simple act of reading often creates headaches and eyestrain, since the image is never completely clear. The individual may have to re-read the word several times.
Who can get it?
Heredity plays a role in astigmatism. Other factors which may be responsible for distortion in the eye include: aging, cataracts or a corneal (eye) injury.
What is the treatment?
Treatment of astigmatism is usually accomplished by glasses or special contact lenses. The type of lens is called a "Toric Lens" and has a cylindrical shape to it. Adapting to toric lenses is often difficult for patients. The very nature of the lens creates a distortion which may give the appearance of everything tilting forward, backward or to one side. Lines may appear curved and walls may curve inward or outward. These symptoms are especially true with a first time wearer of astigmatic lenses. This can also be true of someone who has worn these type of lenses all of their life, but only has a change of lens axis.
If there is much of a difference in astigmatism between the two eyes there may be significant spatial distortion, loss of depth perception and headaches.
(contributed by H. Frank Storey, OD)