Astigmatism is a seemingly exotic word and often humorously mispronounced. It is a common vision condition in which light entering the eye can’t be focused clearly – in fact over 90% of all patients we see have some degree of astigmatism. Astigmatism is also often described as the front surface of the eye (cornea) being football shaped, egg shaped, or a warped camera lens. The “nerdy” definition is that an image will come to focus in two different meridians either before or after the retina, thus it is associated with nearsightedness and farsightedness, which is obviously why we don’t describe it this way to our patients.
Astigmatism is not a disease but rather a common vision condition or refractive error (again think nearsighted or farsighted), so don’t worry, it can’t kill you.
If you have a significant amount of astigmatism, you likely will notice distorted or blurred vision. Patients with mild amounts of astigmatism typically may mention issues with eye fatigue, eye strain, headaches, and blurry vision at certain or all distances. It can also change as you mature. (Sorry, yes this is a subtle reference to age…)
The good news is that astigmatism can be diagnosed during a routine, comprehensive eye examination and the great news is that we can usually improve the vision with glasses, contact lenses, laser vision correction and even cataract surgery. Certain conditions where the astigmatism is caused by an eye injury (trauma, scarring, chemical or thermal burns), infection, or Kerataconus might require a specialty contact. Thus, it is best to ask your optometrist which options are best suited for you.