The cornea that surrounds your iris and pupil is, under perfect circumstances, spherical. When light hits your eye from all angles, the cornea's role is to project that light, aiming it at your retina, which is in the rear part of your eye. What happens if the cornea isn't exactly round? The eye is not able to direct the light correctly on one focal point on your retina's surface, and will cause your vision to be blurred. Such a condition is known as astigmatism.
Astigmatism is actually a fairly common diagnosis, and mostly comes with other vision problems that require vision correction. It oftentimes appears during childhood and can cause eye fatigue, painful headaches and squinting when uncorrected. In children, it may cause challenges at school, often with highly visual skills such as reading or writing. Anyone who works with fine details or at a computer monitor for excessive lengths may find that it can be a problem.
Diagnosis of astigmatism starts with an eye test with an eye care professional. Once detected, an automated refraction or a retinoscopy test is performed to measure the amount of astigmatism. Astigmatism is easily fixed with contacts or eyeglasses, for those who prefer a non-invasive procedure, or refractive surgery, which alters how that light hits the eye, allowing your retina to receive the light properly.
Toric lenses are commonly prescribed for astigmatism because they allow the light to curve more in one direction than another. Regular contacts have a tendency to move when you close your eyes, even just to blink. With astigmatism, the most subtle eye movement can cause blurred sight. After you blink, toric lenses return to the same position on your eye to avoid this problem. You can find toric lenses as soft or hard lenses.
Astigmatism can also be corrected by laser surgery, or by orthokeratology (Ortho-K), a non-surgical alternative involving the use of special hard contacts to gradually change the shape of the cornea over night. You should discuss your options with your optometrist to decide what the best choice might be.
Astigmatism evolves over time, so be sure that you are regularly visiting your eye care professional for a comprehensive test. Also, make sure that your 'back-to-school' list includes a trip to an eye care professional. A considerable amount of your child's education (and playing) is largely a function of their vision. You can allow your child get the most of his or her schooling with a full eye exam, which will help pick up any visual irregularities before they affect education, athletics, or other extra-curricular activities.