For many of us who have visited an optician, the term astigmatism is a word we have heard used, yet are unsure of exactly what it means. Not wanting to appear ignorant, we often just nod and agree to what’s being said without truly understanding what astigmatism is and how it can affect our level of vision. So, with the ability to affect our prescription and lens choice in both our glasses and contact lenses, just what is an astigmatism and how does affect us on a daily basis?
An astigmatism refers to the curve of your eyeball, or to be more precise, the eye’s cornea. Often, an optician will refer to the eyeball with astigmatism as being shaped more like a rugby ball than a football. As a result, vision can become more blurred as it causes light to not be correctly refracted. As with all visual disturbances, the increased strain can cause headaches, tiredness and soreness of the eye, meaning that the astigmatism needs correcting via your prescription. For contact lens wearers, this also means they will need to wear a special type of lens in order for it to sit properly on the eye’s surface.
In the majority of astigmatism cases, you are simply born with it, and whilst it is a consideration when it comes to your eye care, it is something that is considered minor. In some cases, astigmatism can be acquired later in life due to genetic factors, and other factors can be having eye surgery, suffering from Keratoconus or blocked glands on the eyelid such as when you have a Stye.
Correcting astigmatism via your optician means that contact lens wearers will need to wear a special shaped lens called a Toric lens. Toric lenses differ in shape and also help to refract the light differently than a standard lens. Having an astigmatism means an adjustment to your prescription, but is not a barrier for you to have the type of eyewear that you truly want.