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Can You Wear Contacts with Astigmatism?

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A close-up of a young woman with astigmatism is putting a soft eye contact lense in.

Contact lenses are an excellent alternative to eyeglasses for many people. They can provide flexibility and freedom to engage in various physical activities.  Some conditions, however, such as astigmatism, can make it harder to wear contact lenses. 

Astigmatism is a common eye condition that causes blurry vision due to an irregular shape of the cornea or lens, which can also make it difficult to wear standard contact lenses. However, when your eyes are affected by astigmatism, you can wear specialty contact lenses, such as toric lenses. 

Choosing specialty contact lenses starts with a contact lens exam and fitting at your eye doctor to get the right fit for contact lenses that can support your vision and ocular health. 

What Is Astigmatism?

Astigmatism is a refractive error that occurs when the cornea, (transparent front part of the eye), or lens, (clear structure behind the iris) of the eye has an irregular shape. Instead of having a round shape like a ball, it has an oval shape, like a football. 

A cornea or lens with a round curvature allows light to refract, (bend), directly on the retina, (the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye), to produce a clear image. Astigmatism can cause light to refract incorrectly when it enters the eye, leading to blurred vision at all distances. 

Astigmatism can be present from birth and can be detected during children’s eye exams, but it can also occur after an eye injury, surgery, or as a result of other eye diseases and conditions. 

Symptoms of astigmatism can include the following:

  • Blurred or distorted vision
  • Eye strain 
  • Eye discomfort
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty with night vision
  • Squinting
  • Glare
  • Halos

A close-up of modern rigid gas permeable contact lenses for astigmatism.

Contact Lenses for Astigmatism

The previous notion that contact lenses aren’t for everyone no longer applies today. With advancements in contact lens technology, many people can wear contact lenses. 

Some types of specialty contact lenses can provide clear vision for individuals with astigmatism. The type of contact lens used to correct astigmatism may depend on the type of astigmatism you have. 

There are 2 types of astigmatism:

  • Regular astigmatism (corneal astigmatism): Generally more common, this form of astigmatism occurs when the cornea or lens has an oval shape instead of a sphere. You can correct regular astigmatism with contact lenses, glasses, or surgery.
  • Irregular astigmatism: This form of astigmatism occurs when the cornea unevenly curves in several directions in varying degrees. You can correct irregular astigmatism with specialty contacts. 

Contact Lenses

Toric contact lenses are specialty contacts used to provide clear vision for those with astigmatism. They have a different shape than regular contact lenses. 

Toric lenses have 2 powers, on the vertical and horizontal planes, to correct nearsightedness or farsightedness. These lenses also have a specific orientation, which must align with your eyes to provide clear vision.

Some toric lenses have a weighted bottom or are thicker and heavier in certain areas to prevent rotation in the eye. These features can help keep the lenses in place to improve visual clarity when you blink or move your head.

There are 3 common types of toric lenses:

  • Soft contact lenses: These can be suitable for mild to moderate astigmatism. Soft toric lenses are considered flexible and comfortable, but they can become misaligned and can be challenging to fit for some people’s eyes.
  • Rigid gas-permeable lenses: These lenses allow oxygen to pass through while still providing sharp vision. It can take some time to adapt to them, but they can retain their shape well on your eye when you blink. 
  • Hybrid lenses: These are a combination of soft and hard contact lenses. They have a rigid gas-permeable center with soft hydrogel or silicone hydrogel material on the edges. These can provide comfort, clear vision, and support for a variety of activities. 

Tips for Wearing Contact Lenses with Astigmatism

Since contact lenses sit directly on the eye and every eye with astigmatism is unique, finding the right type and fit can take time. During your contact lens exam and fitting, your eye doctor may recommend daily disposable, bi-weekly, or monthly contact lenses.

Whichever type you receive, it’s always important to care for your contact lenses to reduce the risk of infection and help your lenses provide full vision support for your eyes. 

Proper contact use and care includes the following:

  • Get a professional fitting: A professional fitting is essential for finding contact lenses that are the correct size, shape, and orientation for your eyes. A poorly fitting contact lens can cause discomfort, blurred vision, and even damage to your eye.
  • Clean and store your lenses properly: Proper cleaning and storage are essential for maintaining your contact lenses and eye health. Always follow the instructions provided by your eye doctor and contact lens manufacturer.
  • Follow a replacement schedule: Many contact lenses have an expiry date and must be replaced to preserve optimal eye health and vision. You should also discard your contact lens solution once it passes the expiration date and replace your contact lens case every 1 to 3 months. 

Specialty Contacts for Astigmatism

People with astigmatism can wear contact lenses. Toric lenses and other specialty lenses can provide support for visual acuity, freedom from glasses, and a natural look for individuals with astigmatism and other eye conditions. 

Book an appointment with Family Focus Eyecare for a contact lens exam and fitting to get the right contact lenses for your eye health and vision needs.

Written by Dr. Joseph Rich

Dr. Joseph D. Rich moved to Columbia shortly after completing his doctorate at Southern College of Optometry in Memphis, TN. Growing up and completing his undergraduate work in biology, chemistry, and business management at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, MO, Dr. Rich considers himself a full-fledged Mizzou fan and actively enjoys going to as many games as possible.
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