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Astigmatism is a common eye condition which can cause the patient to view objects at any distance as blurry, distorted or wavy. It often leads to an unclear superimposed second image. Astigmatism is a secondary vision error often found in combination with myopia and hyperopia
What Causes Astigmatism?
Astigmatism is caused by an imperfectly shaped cornea. Normally, the eye is shaped like a sphere. When light enters, it refracts (or bends) evenly giving the person a clear view of the object. A patient that suffers from astigmatism is likely to have a more “football like” shaped eye. This causes light to refract more in one direction than the other upon entering the eye.

Signs and Symptoms of Astigmatism

Undetected astigmatism can result in fatigue and eyestrain associated with blurred vision. However, these symptoms may not necessarily be the result of astigmatism. As such, an eye exam should be scheduled with our optometrist if one or more of these symptoms are experienced.

Diagnosing Astigmatism

Through an eye exam, the optometrist will be able to diagnose astigmatism via one or a combination of non-invasive tests. Nearsightedness (myopia),  farsightedness (hyperopia) and presbyopia (aging eyes) may also occur with astigmatism.
Healthy adults should have eye exams every one to two years; children and senior citizens should have eye exams annually.

Treating Astigmatism

Less severe cases of astigmatism can be corrected by prescribed eyeglasses or contact lenses. More severe cases, known as irregular astigmatism, are effectively treated with refractive surgery or rigid gas permeable contact lenses.

Eyeglasses or Contact Lenses

Correction of astigmatism can be as simple as eyeglasses or contact lenses. Toric lenses, also known as special soft contact lenses, can be prescribed to the patient by their optometrist. These lenses have a stronger light-bending power in one direction to help correct the patient’s astigmatism. For more severe cases, gas-permeable rigid contact lenses can be prescribed to correct astigmatism.
Our optometrists will be able to best determine the right prescription for you.

Refractive Surgery (Laser Eye Surgery)

Refractive surgery, or laser eye surgery, is another effective method for correcting astigmatism. It works by changing the shape of the cornea. Multiple types of refractive surgery exist. Our optometrist will be able to recommend specific treatments based on your individual needs. However, refractive surgery requires eyes that are free from retinal problems, corneal scars, and any disease.

Written by Dr. Kent Prete

An active member of the Canadian Association of Optometrists, the Alberta Association of Optometrists, and the Alberta College of Optometrists, Dr. Prete lives his passion every day when he sees his patients. Dr. Prete has spoken at over 100 professional events over the last almost 20 years. A keen educator and confident doctor, Dr. Prete is nearly as passionate about educating other eye care professionals as he is about caring for and educating his patients!
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