Astigmatism is caused by an irregularly shaped cornea. Instead of being a perfect dome, like a basketball, an astigmatic cornea has an elliptical shape-more like a football.
Light passing through an astigmatic cornea cannot focus on a single point on the retina, but instead focuses at multiple points, making it impossible for the eye to focus on a clear image.
The amount of blur can be mild or severe; some people with astigmatism may even see ghosting or double images.
Most people with astigmatism wear glasses or contact lenses to achieve better eyesight. While glasses and contact lenses are effective for most people, they aren’t always ideal. They can be lost or broken and they can be a nuisance during physical activities like sports or activities that require frequent switching between near and distant vision. Contact lenses require additional cleaning and care and glasses can alter your appearance.
Advanced techniques make it easier than ever to treat astigmatism permanently-often reducing or completely eliminating the need for glasses or contacts.
LASIK surgery is a safe, effective option for many people with astigmatism. LASIK can help you see both near and distant objects clearly-without glasses or contacts.
If you are over 40, presbyopia surgery may be an excellent options for treating astigmatism along with presbyopia (a common refractive error that develops over time and causes a loss of near vision). You can reduce your need for glasses or contacts, including reading glasses.
Cataract surgery may be the best option for people over 60 who have begun to develop cataracts and have astigmatism. Modern cataract surgeries can simultaneously correct many refractive errors, including astigmatism and presbyopia. Some surgical options will provide better eyesight at all distances without glasses or contact lenses.
Talk with your eye doctor about which procedure is right for you.
Not sure what a particular term means? Click on words in bold to pull up the glossary tab.
Common vision problem and type of refractive error. Caused by either irregularity in the curvature of the cornea or the lens of the eye. People with astigmatism generally have difficulty seeing fine details at all distances. Treated with corrective lenses, laser vision correction or toric IOLs.
Clear, curved surface at the front of the eye through which light enters the eye. Along with the sclera (the white part of the eye), provides external protection for the eye. Often called the window of the eye. During many types of vision correction surgery, such as LASIK, the cornea is reshaped to reduce or eliminate the main types of refractive error - nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism.
Farsighted, farsightedness (or hyperopia)
Common vision problem and type of refractive error. Caused by too little curvature of the cornea or too little distance between the front of the eye and the retina at the back. Both structural defects cause light entering the eye to focus incorrectly on the retina, resulting in blurred close-up vision. Treated with corrective lenses, laser vision correction or multifocal or accommodative IOLs.
Nearsighted, nearsightedness (or myopia)
Common vision problem and type of refractive error. Caused by either too much curvature of the cornea or too much distance between the front of the eye and the retina at the back. Both structural defects cause light entering the eye to focus incorrectly on the retina, resulting in blurred distance vision. Treated with corrective lenses, laser vision correction or multifocal or accommodative IOLs.
The transparent disc behind the pupil that brings light into focus on the retina. As the eye ages, the lens often becomes cloudy and is called a cataract.
Irregularities in the cornea, lens or shape of the eye that prevent correct focus at any distance.