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Astigmatism is a common and treatable eye problem that causes blurry or distorted vision. In the United States, one in every three people has astigmatism.
Astigmatism is a refractive error, which means the shape of the eye doesn't bend or refract light rays correctly. 153 million people around the world have a refractive error. Other common refractive eye errors include nearsightedness (myopia) and farsightedness (hyperopia).
The two types of astigmatism are corneal and lenticular. Astigmatism occurs when the cornea or lens curvature is abnormal, which causes blurred vision at all distances.
With corneal astigmatism, the cornea has more of an oval shape instead of a round shape. With lenticular astigmatism, the lens is misshapen. In a normal eye, each of these elements should be perfectly round.
An irregular cornea or lens prevents the eye from focusing light correctly on the retina. The area in the eye converts light into signals sent to the brain for visual recognition.
Astigmatism occurs naturally or is caused by an eye injury, eye disease, or eye surgery.
Many treatment options are available to help individuals with astigmatism to see better. Common treatments for astigmatism include corrective lenses and surgery.
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The most common symptoms of astigmatism are:
Individuals with mild astigmatism might not notice any symptoms. That’s why it’s essential to get regular eye exams. An optometrist or ophthalmologist can diagnose astigmatism even if it’s undetected by the patient. Frequent eye exams are vital for children, who may not tell if their vision is normal, which is why all children should visit a pediatric optometrist at least once annually.
The optometrist can diagnose astigmatism during a comprehensive eye exam.
A comprehensive eye exam includes:
Astigmatism may distort the appearance of lights. This condition can cause several visual distortions, including blurriness, a glare, streaking, starburst, or a halo effect around lights, making driving at night difficult. However, glares or a halo appearance around lights do not necessarily indicate astigmatism, as this phenomenon is also caused by other vision conditions like nearsightedness (myopia) or cataracts.
Here are some examples of how lights may look with astigmatism:
Astigmatism can impair vision at night and make driving difficult. Individuals with astigmatism may notice other symptoms when driving at night, including:
Because astigmatism can distort the appearance of things like streetlights and car headlights, it can be hazardous to drive at night with untreated astigmatism. Individuals who start having trouble with their night vision or notice any of these symptoms should immediately schedule an exam with their eye doctor.
Many treatment options are available to help restore clear vision to individuals with astigmatism. The most common treatments for astigmatism include:
Patients who already wear glasses or contact lenses that correct their astigmatism should wear them when driving at night. Patients who are still having trouble seeing objects and lights clearly at night should have their prescription adjusted or consult their eye doctor to see if there are other underlying causes.
“Astigmatism.” Temple Health, www.templehealth.org/services/conditions/astigmatism.
“Blindness and Vision Impairment: Refractive Errors.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/blindness-and-vision-impairment-refractive-errors
“Eye Health Statistics.” Eye Health Statistics - American Academy of Ophthalmology, www.aao.org/newsroom/eye-health-statistics
“Get a Dilated Eye Exam.” National Eye Institute, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.nei.nih.gov/learn-about-eye-health/healthy-vision/get-dilated-eye-exam
Molina, Brett. “Worried about Astigmatism? Those Viral Pics Likely Won't Confirm You Have It.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 3 Apr. 2019, www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/04/03/astigmatism-lights-comparison-likely-wont-diagnose-condition/3351230002/
“Surgical Procedures Aimed at Improving the Focusing Power of the Eye.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA, www.fda.gov/medical-devices/lasik/what-lasik