What is Astigmatism?

Astigmatism is a common condition that affects many individuals’ vision. Whether you have recently visited an eye doctor or have heard the term mentioned elsewhere, it is essential to understand what astigmatism is, how it can impact your daily life, and the available treatment options. In this blog post, we will provide a comprehensive overview of astigmatism explicitly tailored to individuals in Canada.

What is Astigmatism?

Astigmatism is a refractive error that occurs when the lens or cornea of the eye is not correctly curved, leading to distorted and blurry vision. The severity of astigmatism can vary, with some individuals experiencing mild symptoms and others facing significant visual impairment. This condition affects people of all backgrounds and gender and is believed to have genetic and acquired causes.

Causes of Astigmatism

While the exact cause of astigmatism is not fully understood, genetic and acquired factors can contribute to the development of astigmatism. These may also include the following:

  • Irregularly shaped cornea: The cornea, which should be smooth and evenly curved, is irregular, causing light to focus unevenly on the retina.
  • Irregularly shaped lens (less standard): Similar to corneal astigmatism, an irregularly shaped lens can also lead to astigmatism.
  • Genetic factors and heredity: Astigmatism can be inherited, so individuals with a family history are more prone to developing it.
  • Eye injuries or surgeries: Trauma to the eye or previous eye surgeries can cause corneal scarring or changes in the shape of the cornea, resulting in astigmatism.
  • Keratoconus: This condition leads to progressive thinning and bulging of the cornea, causing irregular astigmatism.

Symptoms of Astigmatism

When astigmatism is present, individuals may experience several common symptoms, such as:

  • Blurred or distorted vision, both up close and at a distance.
  • Difficulty seeing fine details or reading small print.
  • Frequent squinting in an attempt to see more clearly.
  • Headaches, especially after prolonged visual activities.

If you notice any of these symptoms, you must schedule an appointment with an optometrist for a comprehensive eye examination. They will be able to diagnose astigmatism accurately and recommend suitable treatment options.

Diagnosing Astigmatism

Regular eye exams are essential for diagnosing astigmatism. Comprehensive eye examinations conducted by optometrists or ophthalmologists help assess the presence and severity of astigmatism.

Diagnostic tests for measuring and diagnosing astigmatism include:

  • Visual acuity tests: These tests evaluate how well you can see at various distances, using an eye chart to measure your visual acuity. It helps determine the clarity of your vision and identify any refractive errors, including astigmatism.
  • Keratometry: This test measures the cornea’s curvature, explicitly focusing on the steepness and flattening of different meridians. It provides information on the cornea’s shape and helps determine the presence and severity of astigmatism.
  • Corneal topography: This non-invasive imaging technique maps the contour and shape of the cornea, providing detailed information about its curvature across different regions. It creates a topographic map that helps identify irregularities in the cornea’s shape, including astigmatism.

These diagnostic tests, conducted by optometrists or ophthalmologists, play a crucial role in accurately measuring and diagnosing astigmatism. By evaluating the cornea’s shape, curvature, and clarity, these tests help determine the appropriate correction options and treatment plans for individuals with astigmatism.

Treatment Options for Astigmatism

Prescription Eyeglasses

  • Single vision lenses: These lenses have a consistent prescription power throughout the entire lens and can correct astigmatism by compensating for the irregular shape of the cornea or lens.
  • Bifocals/progressives: These lenses have different prescription powers for near and distance vision and can also correct astigmatism while addressing presbyopia (age-related loss of near vision).

Contact Lenses

  • Toric lenses: These lenses are specifically designed to correct astigmatism. They have different prescription powers in different lens meridians, aligning with the cornea’s irregular shape and providing clear vision.
  • Rigid gas permeable (RGP) lenses: These are rigid contact lenses that can effectively correct astigmatism by providing a smooth and regular refractive surface.
  • Scleral lenses: These are larger, gas-permeable lenses that vault over the cornea, offering clear vision and comfort for individuals with severe astigmatism or keratoconus.

Refractive Surgeries

  • LASIK (Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis): This procedure uses a laser to reshape the cornea, correcting its irregular shape and improving vision.
  • PRK (Photorefractive Keratectomy): Like LASIK, PRK reshapes the cornea using a laser without creating a corneal flap.
  • ICL (Implantable Collamer Lens): This procedure involves placing a corrective lens inside the eye, either in front of or behind the iris, to correct astigmatism and provide clear vision.

These correction options offer individuals with astigmatism various choices to achieve a precise and comfortable vision. Consultation with an optometrist or ophthalmologist is essential to determine the most suitable option based on individual needs and preferences.

Preventive Measures and Eye Care

Routine Eye Exams

  • Regular eye exams are essential for early detection, monitoring, and timely intervention in case of astigmatism or other vision conditions.
  • Optometrists or ophthalmologists can identify changes in your vision and recommend appropriate treatments or corrective measures.

Proper Care of Eyeglasses and Contact Lenses

  • Clean and store your eyeglasses or contact lenses as instructed by your eye care professional.
  • Regularly clean and replace your contact lenses as recommended to prevent eye infections and maintain clear vision.

Wearing Appropriate Eye Protection

  • Wear appropriate eye protection such as safety goggles or glasses when engaging in hazardous activities or working in environments where eye injuries are possible.
  • This helps prevent eye injuries that can lead to complications or worsen existing astigmatism.

Monitoring Changes in Vision

  • Regularly monitor any changes in your vision, such as increased blurriness or difficulty focusing.
  • If you experience worsening symptoms of astigmatism, such as persistent blurred or distorted vision, eye strain, or discomfort, seek professional advice promptly.
  • Early intervention can prevent further deterioration of vision and ensure timely treatment.

Following these preventive measures and practicing good eye care can promote eye health, reduce the risk of complications, and maintain optimal vision. Remember to schedule regular eye exams, take proper care of your eyeglasses or contact lenses, wear eye protection when necessary, and seek professional advice for any changes or worsening symptoms in your vision.

Schedule Your Appointment Today

Understanding astigmatism is essential for individuals seeking optimal vision health. This condition, characterized by distorted and blurry vision, can significantly impact daily life. By familiarizing yourself with the causes, symptoms, and available treatment options, you can take proactive steps to address astigmatism.

Regular visits to an optometrist are crucial for early detection and intervention. If you are concerned about your vision, contact Garibaldi Eye Care in Squamish, Canada, to schedule a comprehensive eye exam and receive the necessary guidance and treatment.