A debate continues as to whether astygmatism and contact lenses are compatible bed fellows. For many years, it was unclear as to whether contact lenses of any sort could assist an astigmatism sufferer.
Astigmatism is a misshaping of the the cornea. A normal cornea is round, but in an astigmatism sufferer, the shape is more like an American football, or rugby ball. An astigmatic eye sees light focusing on two points in the back of your eye, rather than on just one in a normal eye. This is because an astigmatic cornea has a steeper and flatter curve due to the shape of the cornea. This is called corneal astigmatism.
Sometimes, astigmatism is the result of an irregularly shaped lens, which is located behind the cornea. This is called lenticular astigmatism.
Either kind of astigmatism can usually be corrected with spectacles or contact lenses. In some case, refractive surgery can also help astigmatism sufferers.
If you have only a small amount of astigmatism, you may not notice it or have just slightly blurred vision. You may have had the problem for many years but never noticed, because small changes over many years may not have indicated a problem to you. However, uncorrected astigmatism may also give you headaches or a pain behind the eyes, which you might think of as eyestrain. Or, you may notice distorted or blurred vision at all distances.
Astigmatism can also affect children. Astigmatism can affect their ability to see properly in lessons, so it’s vitally important that children have their eyes examined at regular intervals in order to detect any astigmatism early on. I personally started complaining to my parents when I was about 8 that I could not see the blackboard at school properly. I was taken to doctor, who advised my parents that I was just trying to get out of school. My continued complaining however, eventually led my parents to find the only optician in town (this was some years ago) who confirmed short sightedness and astigmatism.
I would certainly hope that my children get a more sympathetic ear from the medical profession then I did all those years ago.
Unless it is extreme, astigmatism can be treated with glasses or contact lenses.
Many people with astigmatism believe that they can’t wear contact lenses at all, which is something that was alluded to at the start of this article, or that only hard (also called gas permeable – GP) contact lenses can correct astigmatism.
For many years, this was the case, but now there are soft contact lenses available, that correct astigmatism. These are called toric contact lenses.
Toric lenses have a special correction built into them and may also contain a prescription for nearsightedness or farsightedness if you need it.
While soft toric lenses work well for many people, if you have severe astigmatism, you might find that GP contact lenses or spectacles help you more. Your optician will be able to advise you.