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What is Astigmatism?

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If all this time you thought it was “a stigmatism” – don’t worry, you are not the only one. Now that we have corrected the most misspelled word in the eye industry, let’s correct one of the most misunderstood eye conditions and answer one of our most frequently asked questions at Family Focus Eyecare.

What exactly is astigmatism?

Astigmatism is not a disease or anything to be scared of. It is a refractive condition, meaning there is a problem with how your eye focuses light. In a normal, healthy eye the lens is shaped like a sphere, has a fine focal point on your retina and can properly focus light. In an eye with astigmatism, the front of the eye or the lens in the eye is not completely round like a sphere. This makes part of the focal point either in front of the eye or behind the eye. Therefore, when light enters the eye it is refracted more in one direction than the other, allowing only part of the object to be in focus at one time. As you can imagine, this leads to problems seeing clearly.

What are the symptoms of astigmatism?

Not sure if you have astigmatism? Here are the most common symptoms:

  • Blurred and/or distorted vision – up close and/or far away depending on the severity of astigmatism
  • Eye strain
  • Headaches
  • Squinting

What causes astigmatism?

While the exact cause is unknown, you should know that astigmatism is natural and commonly occurring. There is nothing you could have done or can do to avoid getting astigmatism. To keep astigmatism from getting worse, however, you can avoid long periods of time on the computer and take breaks regularly to avoid eye strain.

How is astigmatism treated?

Don’t worry – this is not a permanent condition and the fix is quite easy. Astigmatism is most commonly resolved with a warped lens. Sounds weird, huh? This lens will counterbalance your irregularly shaped cornea and create a fine, crisp point of vision on your retina. If you don’t like to wear glasses, contact lenses can be prescribed, and in most cases refractive surgery such as LASIK is a viable option.

If you are experiencing one or more of astigmatism symptoms and think you might have astigmatism, make an eye appointment. Astigmatism can be detected through regular comprehensive eye exams and can be corrected quickly and pain-free!

— Dr. Joseph D. Rich


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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