It is a vision problem caused due to error in the shape of the cornea. With astigmatism, people have an irregular curve on the front surface of the eye. It changes the way the light passes through your eyes and refracts from the retina. This leads to blurry, or distorted vision. Hyperopia i.e. farsightedness and myopia i.e. nearsightedness are the two major problems caused by the way light passes to your retina.
TYPES OF ASTIGMATISM
There are two main types of astigmatism:
- CORNEAL ASTIGMATISM- happens when your cornea gets impaired.
- LENTICULAR ASTIGMATISM- happens when your lens gets impaired.
CAUSES OF ASTIGMATISM
The exact cause of astigmatism is yet not found but genetics is a big factor. It can be found by birth or can later develop in life. It can also occur due to some eye injury or after eye surgery.
WHO IS AT RISK?
Astigmatism can occur in either children or adults. The risk of getting astigmatism increases if you have the following:
- A family history of astigmatism or any eye disorder
- Scarring or thinking of your cornea
- Excessive nearsightedness or farsightedness
- History of any eye surgery especially cataract
SYMPTOMS OF ASTIGMATISM
Symptoms of astigmatism differ from person to person. Some people do not have any symptoms whereas some people do have symptoms. Some of the common symptoms found in people with astigmatism are as follows:
- Blurry, fuzzy, or distorted vision
- Difficulty seeing at night
- Irritation in the eyes
Consult a doctor immediately if you have any of the following symptoms. As sometimes what we think is normal can actually be something serious which can harm us in a very bad way. Do not just wait at home for the condition to get worse.
DIAGNOSIS FOR ASTIGMATISM
Your optometrist or ophthalmologist will diagnose astigmatism by conducting several kinds of eye exams. An optometrist is a doctor who will diagnose your eye disease or vision problems. An ophthalmologist will provide medical or surgical treatment for vision problems or eye diseases. Several tests can be performed by the optometrist or an ophthalmologist for examining the eyes to diagnose astigmatism.
VISUAL ACUITY TEST
In this, the doctor will place a chart in front of you. The chart will contain several letters, you have to read the letter one by one. The size of the letter will gradually decrease as you go down. You need to read those letters by placing your hand in front of one of the eyes and similarly repeat the same with the other eye. This is to determine how well you can see the letters from a certain distance.
In this test, a machine known as “optical refractor” is used. The machine consists of multiple corrective glass lenses of different strengths. Your doctor will place a lens in front of your eyes and will ask you to read the letters from the chart. He will keep changing the lenses unless you get a clear picture of all the letters mentioned in the chart.
In this test, a device is used to measure the curvature of your cornea known as the keratometer. This helps the doctor to find any error in your cornea.
TREATMENT FOR ASTIGMATISM
Mild astigmatism doesn’t require any treatment. Your doctor will cure the problem using one of the following things.
In this rigid contact lenses are used to temporarily correct the irregular curvature of your cornea. You will be asked to wear a rigid contact lens for a limited period of time. You may wear it while you sleep and take it off during the day. The benefit of this treatment is only present until you are using the contact lens. As you stop wearing them you will get your old vision back.
Surgery is only recommended for people who have a severe case. You will have to go through a refractive surgery that involves lasers or small knives to reshape your cornea. This permanently treats your irregularity in the curvature of your cornea. There are three common surgeries used to treat astigmatism, they are:
- Laser in situ keratomileuses (LASIK)
- Photorefractive keratectomy (PRK)
- Radial keratotomy (RK)
All these surgeries carry some risks. Therefore, talk to your doctor about all the benefits and risks of the surgery beforehand only.
Astigmatism occurs when you have an error in the curvature of your cornea. It can be by birth or can later develop in life. The major cause of astigmatism has yet not been identified but it is said that it can occur due to some eye injury or previous eye surgery.
The mild condition of astigmatism doesn’t require any treatment but severe conditions should be treated immediately as delaying it would cause great risks to the eyes.
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