Astigmatism: What You Need to Know

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Taking excellent care of your vision and eye health is undeniably important to your overall wellbeing. One of the best places to start is being informed. That being said, here’s the scoop on astigmatism--a refractive error that’s quite common--and its potential impacts on your eyesight…

Let’s define it

A common misconception is that astigmatism is a disease of the eye. This is incorrect. Astigmatism is a painless condition that results from an inconsistency in the physical shape of the eye, specifically the curvature of the cornea (the transparent lens through which light passes into the eye). The incidence of astigmatism is actually fairly high--some estimates place it as occurring in 1 out of every 3 persons in the US population. Moreover, it can onset at any age from early childhood through later in life. The good news is, it’s perfectly correctible with the proper pair of prescription lenses; those seeking a more permanent solution may undergo laser surgery.

How you’ll see (differently)

The impact that astigmatism has on eyesight is directly related to the non-uniformity in the physical shape of the cornea that characterizes the condition. The cornea acts as a lens which refracts light into the eye; any irregularity in curvature will alter the angle at which the light is bent and focused onto the retina. As a result, the image that hits the retina becomes distorted. Note that astigmatism can occur by itself or concurrently with one of the other refractive errors: myopia (nearsightedness), or hyperopia (farsightedness).

How to manage it

While astigmatism is not an eye disease, taking an active role to manage it will determine how it impacts your vision over time. Most of us have heard that our eyesight changes as we age, and astigmatism is a case-and-point example of a condition that can develop or worsen over the years. Much of what you do for optimal overall health will also benefit your eyes in the long run. Most importantly, your best bet is to work with a specialist--visit your optometrist for regular eye exams and any changes in your vision.  

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