The part of the eye that surrounds your iris and pupil is your cornea, which is, under usual circumstances, round. As light enters your eye from all angles, the cornea's role is to project that light, aiming it to the retina, which is in the rear part of your eye. What is the result if the cornea is not exactly spherical? The eye cannot project the light correctly on one focal point on your retina's surface, and vision becomes blurred. Such a condition is known as astigmatism.
Astigmatism is a fairly common vision problem, and mostly comes with other refractive problems such as nearsightedness or farsightedness. It oftentimes occurs early in life and often causes eye fatigue, headaches and the tendency to squint when uncorrected. In kids, it can lead to difficulty in school, especially when it comes to reading or other visual tasks. Anyone who works with particularly small or detailed objects or at a computer monitor for extended lengths of time may find that it can be a problem.
Diagnosis of astigmatism starts with a routine eye exam with an eye care professional. Once detected, an automated refraction or a retinoscopy exam is performed to measure the amount of astigmatism. The condition is easily tended to by contacts or glasses, for those who prefer a non-invasive procedure, or refractive surgery, which changes how that light hits the eye, letting the retina receive the light properly.
With contacts, the patient might be given toric lenses, which permit the light to curve more in one direction than another. Standard contact lenses generally shift each time you blink. But with astigmatism, the most subtle movement can completely blur your vision. Toric lenses are able to return to the exact same position immediately after you blink. You can find toric lenses as soft or rigid lenses.
In some cases, astigmatism can also be corrected by laser surgery, or by orthokeratology (Ortho-K), a non-surgical procedure that involves the use of special rigid lenses to slowly reshape the cornea over night. You should explore options with your optometrist in order to determine what the best choice might be.
For help demonstrating the effects of astigmatism to young, small children, have them look at a circular teaspoon and an oval teaspoon. In the circular spoon, their reflection appears proportionate. In the oval teaspoon, their reflection will be skewed. And this is what astigmatism means for your eye; you wind up viewing everything stretched out a little.
A person's astigmatism can get better or worse gradually, so be sure that you are periodically seeing your eye care professional for a comprehensive test. Additionally, make sure that your 'back-to-school' list includes a trip to an eye doctor. Most of your child's education (and playing) is mostly visual. You can help your child make the best of his or her schooling with a comprehensive eye exam, which will diagnose any visual abnormalities before they affect schooling, play, or other activities. It's important to know that astigmatism is very treatable, and that the sooner to you seek to treat it, the better off your child will be.