As an optometrist, my main responsibilities are to prescribe corrective lenses to patients looking to improve their vision and detect any eye diseases that might impact their vision.
Astigmatism is one of those refractive errors I deal with daily. There is quite a bit of confusion regarding astigmatism, unlike being nearsighted (myopic) or farsighted (hyperopic), which are more straightforward.
Today, I will try to explain what astigmatism is in the simplest way possible so you can know what it is and how it impacts your life.
What Is Astigmatism?
Astigmatism is an abnormal curvature of your cornea (front of the eye) or lens. A common analogy is that if you could picture an eye that is free of astigmatism shaped like a basketball, then an eye that has astigmatism is shaped like a football.
This analogy illustrates that the curve of the cornea or lens is normally equal or identical in all directions, so light rays travel to the back of the eye without any distortion. However, with a cornea or lens that has astigmatism, the light rays are bent. This means they don’t focus properly at the back of the eye, and the person experiences blur.
From my experience, I see whole families requiring eyeglasses to correct astigmatism. From the kids, parents, cousins, and grandparents, astigmatism is genetically inherited and varies in strength among the different family members.
Symptoms of uncorrected astigmatism include:
- Blurry vision both distance and near
- “Pressure” around the eyes
- Red, irritated eyes
A person with astigmatism can also be nearsighted or farsighted. All these refractive errors are usually corrected with eyeglasses, which “smooth out” the irregular curves, so the light rays focus at the back of the eye properly.
So, What Does This All Mean When It Comes To Reading Glasses?
The first step is to see your eye care professional to determine if you have an astigmatism correction and how much power is needed to correct it so you can see properly.
If you have a small amount of astigmatism and just need magnification to see at near, then just getting a pair of generic reading glasses in the appropriate power might be enough for you.
Keep in mind that generic reading glasses only magnify whatever you’re looking at up close. They don’t focus or correct any refractive error you already have.
However, if you find that your uncorrected astigmatism hinders your distance and near vision, see your eye care professional to get an eye exam and a prescription for the proper eyeglasses.
A generic pair of reading glasses will not help you see and focus properly if your astigmatism is moderate to severe since your astigmatism correction is missing.
I find that astigmatism is more complicated to correct than nearsightedness or farsightedness.
Since there are different curvatures to astigmatism, eyeglasses must be properly balanced on your head. If one side of your reading glasses is higher or lower than the other side, you will not see properly and even get a headache.
A good practice is to stop by your eye doctor’s office or the nearest optical store and have them adjusted for optimal fit, comfort, and vision.