Astigmatism – sometimes misspelled as “a stigmatism” – is blurred vision resulting from a misshaped cornea. It differs from myopia (nearsightedness) and hyperopia (farsightedness) in that it affects vision at any distance. Astigmatism is usually inherited, but often gets worse over time. It may also result from injury to the cornea or from a disease called keratoconus, a gradual thinning of the cornea.
Symptoms of Astigmatism
Symptoms can range from slightly blurred vision to headaches and extreme blurry vision at all distances. It can also accompany either myopia or hyperopia.
People with astigmatism have an oval-shaped, or football-shaped cornea, as opposed to a normal spherical cornea. Astigmatic corneas have two curves, a steeper curve over the shorter surface and a flatter one over the longer surface. Therefore light focuses on more than one point in the eye, causing blurred vision at all distances.
Treatments for Astigmatism
Because of the oblong shape of an astigmatic cornea, some contacts will not work correctly, and may even further damage the eye. However, soft contacts are made to compensate for astigmatism. Eye-glasses are often prescribed as a solution for mild to moderate astigmatism.
Many patients choose refractive surgery instead of glasses or contacts. The main refractive surgeries performed for this vision disorder are LASIK, Photo Refractive Keratectomy (PRK) and Conductive Keratoplasty (CK).
LASIK and PRK use the excimer laser to reshape the cornea. The difference is that PRK removes tissue from the surface of the eye to create access to the treatment layer (stroma); while LASIK creates a surface flap and bends it back to create that access. The treatment itself is done the same way with an excimer laser.
CK is a proprietary technology that has FDA approval for the correction of hyperopia and presbyopia. However, it is sometimes used to treat astigmatism in people over the age of forty. CK uses heat from radio frequency waves to shrink collagen fibers in order to reshape the cornea.
Refractive surgery may or may not be an option for your astigmatism. Consult with an experienced and fully-qualified ophthalmologist to arrive at the best option for your individual vision conditions. You can find a good ophthalmologist in your area by using our map of the states or our contact form.