Astigmatism

What is Astigmatism

Astigmatism is a common eye condition that causes blurred vision. It happens when the clear front surface of the eye (cornea) has an irregular shape.

Astigmatism can happen in one or both eyes. It can be worse in one eye, and it may also occur along with nearsightedness (myopia) or farsightedness (hyperopia). Many people who have astigmatism were born with it, and their condition gets worse over time.

What are the causes?

This condition may be caused by:

  • Weakness in the tissue of the cornea, which causes a cone-shaped bubble to develop (keratoconus).
  • Scars from injury.
  • Clouding of the cornea due to corneal disease.

In some cases, the cause of this condition is not known. It is usually present from birth and may be passed from parent to child (hereditary).

What are the signs or symptoms?

The main symptom of this condition is blurry vision. This may affect one or both eyes, and it can affect one eye more than the other. Blurry vision may cause:

  • Eye strain.
  • Headaches.
  • Trouble driving at night.
  • Narrowing or squinting your eyes to see.

If your astigmatism is caused by corneal disease, you may also have pain in your affected eye.

How is this diagnosed?

This condition may be diagnosed based on your medical history and an eye exam. An eye specialist (optometristor ophthalmologist) will test your vision. This involves using a series of lenses in front of your eyes and having you read a vision chart. You may also be tested for other health problems.

How is this treated?

Most astigmatism problems can be corrected by wearing eyeglasses or contact lenses. In severe cases, treatment may involve surgery to change the shape of the cornea (refractive surgery).

Follow these instructions at home:

  • If you are prescribed glasses or contact lenses, wear them as told by your health care provider. Keep in mind that it may take up to 2 weeks for your eyes to adjust to new prescription lenses.
  • Get an eye exam once a year, or as often as recommended.
  • Do notdrive or use heavy machinery if your vision is blurry. Ask your health care provider if it is safe for you to drive while wearing your glasses or contact lenses.
  • Keep all follow-up visits as told by your health care provider. This is important.

Contact a health care provider if:

  • You have been wearing new glasses or contact lenses for 2 weeks and you have trouble seeing with them.
  • You develop new symptoms.
  • You have headaches, eye strain, or eye pain.

Summary

  • Astigmatism happens when the cornea has an irregular shape and causes blurred vision.
  • Blurry vision may cause eye strain, headaches, squinting to see, and trouble driving at night.
  • Many people who have astigmatism were born with it, and their condition gets worse over time.
  • Most astigmatism problems can be corrected by wearing eyeglasses or contact lenses.

Astigmatism, Pediatric

Astigmatism is a common eye condition that causes blurred vision. It happens when the clear front surface of the eye (cornea) has an irregular shape. Astigmatism can happen in one or both eyes. It can be worse in one eye, and it may also occur along with nearsightedness (myopia) or farsightedness (hyperopia). Many people who have astigmatism were born with it, and their condition gets worse over time.

Early diagnosis of astigmatism and any other vision problems gives your child the best chance to see clearly.

What are the causes?

The cause of this condition is not known. It is usually present from birth and may be passed from parent to child (hereditary).

What increases the risk?

Children are more likely to develop astigmatism if their mother smoked during pregnancy.

What are the signs or symptoms?

The main symptom of this condition is blurry vision. This may affect one or both eyes, and it can affect one eye more than the other. Blurry vision may cause your child to:

  • Squint, blink, or rub his or her eyes.
  • Get noticeably close to a TV or computer screen in order to see it.
  • Avoid or lose interest in games, puzzles, and other detailed activities.
  • Lose his or her place when reading.
  • Turn his or her head to the side when looking at something that is straight ahead.

Your child’s vision may change over time, so it is important to watch for symptoms throughout your child’s preschool and school years. If learning seems hard or stressful for your child, it could be because of a vision problem.

How is this diagnosed?

This condition may be diagnosed by medical history and an eye exam. An eye specialist (optometrist or ophthalmologist) will test your child’s vision. This will involve using a series of lenses in front of your child’s eyes and testing vision with an eye reading chart. Your child may also be tested for other health problems. Keep in mind that:

  • Astigmatism may not be diagnosed until your child is age 3 or older. This is because your child must be able to cooperate and do things like reading an eye chart.
  • A vision screening by your child’s pediatrician or school is limited and cannot fully diagnose an eye or vision problem. Astigmatism must be diagnosed by an eye specialist.

How is this treated?

Most astigmatism problems can be corrected by wearing eyeglasses or contact lenses. Your child’s eye care specialist will determine if it is appropriate for your child to wear contact lenses. A test will be done to measure how the eyes focus light. This testing determines what type of lenses will correct your child’s vision.

Follow these instructions at home:

  • Have your child wear eyeglasses or contact lenses as prescribed. It may take up to 2 weeks for your child’s eyes to adjust to new prescription lenses.
  • When choosing glasses for your child:
    • Work with an optician who has experience with pediatric eyewear.
    • Look for children’s frames that have soft comfort cables that fit around the ears.
    • Look for lenses made of a material called polycarbonate. This shatterproof material will help to protect your child from injury if the lenses get broken.
  • Make sure your child has an eye exam at least every other year, or as often as recommended by your child’s eye care specialist.
  • If needed, work with your child’s school to make sure that your child is able to see at school. For example, arrange for your child to sit at the front of classrooms if he or she has difficulty seeing from farther away.
  • Limit your child’s screen time. This is the time that your child spends looking at digital screens, including computers, tablets, smartphones, and TVs. Encourage your child to:
    • Look away from the screen one or more times every 20 minutes.
    • Take 10 minute breaks from screens every hour.
  • If your child is of driving age, do notlet him or her drive with blurry vision.
  • Keep all follow-up visits as told by your child’s eye specialist. This is important.

Contact a health care provider if:

  • Your child has been wearing new glasses for 2 weeks, and he or she:
    • Has trouble seeing with the glasses.
    • Constantly looks over the glasses.
  • Your child has headaches, eye strain, or eye pain.

Summary

  • Astigmatism is a common eye condition that causes blurred vision.
  • Make sure your child has an eye exam at least every other year, or more often if recommended. Keep in mind that a vision screening by your child’s pediatrician or preschool cannot fully diagnose an eye or vision problem.
  • Watch for signs of vision problems, especially in younger children.
  • If your child has astigmatism, the problem can most likely be corrected with well-fitting, comfortable glasses or contact lenses.
  • Always watch your child for signs of problems with his or her glasses. Talk with your child’s health care provider if your child complains of headaches or eye pain.
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