What Is Astigmatism?

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Although astigmatism is the most common vision problem, most people, don’t quite understand what that is.  Astigmatism is usually caused by irregularly shaped cornea, causing the eye to focus an object on two different points of the retina.  For the cornea to bend light correctly, it should be dome-shaped, like a basketball. Astigmatic corneas are shaped more like a football. This causes a distorted view when looking at objects which are close-up and far away.   People do not notice small amounts of astigmatism which is usually discovered at the eye doctor’s office.  However higher degrees of astigmatism causes blurred vision, eye strain and headaches and can usually be very easily corrected by toric contact lenses (such as Acuvue Oasys for Astigmatism, Proclear Toric or Air Optix for Astigmatism) or glasses. The cause of astigmatism is unknown. Astigmatism is often associated with myopia or hyperopia, and typically occurs from birth. It may be hereditary, or it may be caused by factors such as pressure on the cornea, incorrect posture, or increased use of the eyes for "near work."  

If your eyeglass or contact lens prescription contains three parts rather than one, your eye care practitioner has found some astigmatism in one or both of your eyes. A prescription with three parts looks like this: -1.00-1.25@180. The first number indicates the amount of power (in diopters) required in a lens to improve your vision (usually to 20/20). If the sign in front of the first number is negative (-), it means the person is nearsighted (myopic), if the sign is positive, it means the person is farsighted (hyperopic).  The second number shows the extent of the astigmatism.  The third number is the axis of the cylinder required to correct astigmatic part of the prescription.

Many people think that they are not able to wear contact lenses if they have astigmatism.  However, this is not true.  Contact lens industry has improved dramatically over the years and   toric contact lenses are able to correct astigmatism as well as or even better than glasses!  Toric contact lenses or lenses for astigmatism are widely available.  For example,  Acuvue Oasys for Astigmatism are 2 week disposable lenses that correct moderate to high degrees of astigmatism and are great for people suffering from dry eyes.  Proclear Toric contact lenses are a good fit for those who prefer monthly disposable lenses and Air Optix for Astigmatism are perfect lenses for those who are seeking extended wear lenses.  There are many choices and eye doctor will determine the lens that is right for a particular patient.
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