Astigmatism Explained: Symptoms, Treatment & Advice

up close of eye scanner

Astigmatism is an extremely common yet often misunderstood condition. It affects 1 in 3 people around the world, and just like longsightedness and shortsightedness, it can cause blurred vision. We’re going to explore the condition in-depth, from understanding how its symptoms present, to managing the impact that it can have on your sight.

What is astigmatism?

Astigmatism is a refractive error that affects how light enters the eye, causing blurred vision at various distances. Unlike normal eyes, which have a round cornea, individuals with astigmatism have a cornea or lens with an irregular shape. One of the closest things to liken this to is instead of having a perfectly round, football-shaped cornea, a person that has astigmatism has a rugby ball-shaped cornea – and this is why the condition causes distorted vision.

What are the symptoms of astigmatism?

Astigmatism can often be detected during eye exams at an early age, but sometimes it can be mistaken for other causes of bad eyesight, or it can go undetected and not lead to any noticeable symptoms. Some of the most frequent symptoms of astigmatism include:

  • Blurred or distorted vision at all distances.
  • Eyestrain or discomfort.
  • Headaches, especially after prolonged visual tasks. For example, working on a laptop for long hours, or reading in dull light.
  • Difficulty driving at night/lights stretching at night (find out more about this below).
  • Frequent squinting to see clearly.
  • Double vision in one or both eyes.

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms (whether you’ve got an existing diagnosis of astigmatism or not) we’d definitely recommend booking in for our OCT 3D eye test. The most effective way to manage the symptoms of astigmatism is by taking a closer look at the affected eye/s, and we can only achieve this in a routine exam. Similarly, if you already wear glasses but you’re dealing with anything that we have outlined above, then it might be worthwhile reviewing your prescription. If you think you might be affected by astigmatism, book an appointment online now.

Astigmatism: lights ‘stretching’ or blurring

TikTok user DrAlexaHecht shared this video on the popular platform, and it shows exactly what we mean when we say an astigmatism can cause lights to ‘stretch’ or blur at night – especially while driving. The way that the cornea refracts light is distorted in those affected by astigmatism, leading to this kind of distorted visual appearance; and it’s exacerbated at night due to the contrast of the low light. The video triggered thousands of comments from viewers, questioning their own vision, leading them to wonder whether they could be living with astigmatism.

What causes astigmatism?

While certain things can lead to astigmatism, doctor’s don’t actually know why some people are born with different shaped corneas/a different degree of curvature in the cornea. Things like eye trauma or injury, perhaps even following an eye surgery, could lead to astigmatism, but it can also simply be part of your anatomy.

Does astigmatism affect both eyes?

Astigmatism can impact both or just one eye. Where it affects both eyes, the degree present is rarely the same, and the individual will likely experience this difference in their vision throughout their day-to-day life. When astigmatism affects just one eye, it can lead to a ‘lazy eye’, where the vision doesn’t develop properly. If this is picked up early by your optician, then it can often be treated.

Is astigmatism hereditary?

On the topic of anatomy – yes, astigmatism can be inherited! In fact, most astigmatism cases occur as a result of our genes, rather than as a consequence of an external factor such as trauma. When you are born with astigmatism, it is usually picked up in your eye exams as a child.

Can astigmatism get worse?

Just like your prescription, an astigmatism can get worse over time. This is why it’s important to get your eyes tested regularly, and to make note of any recurrent symptoms. You could go from not needing glasses to needing them to manage your astigmatism, or you might require a higher prescription to correct your vision.

Managing astigmatism: approaches & advice

Astigmatism can be managed effectively, in a way that minimises the symptoms in day-to-day life. Follow our tips below:

Don’t skip your annual eye exam

Regular eye tests with an optometrist will help you to monitor your astigmatism, but they’re also essential for detecting any other changes in your vision.

Wear the right glasses for your prescription

If you have an astigmatism in both or one eye, it’s really important to make sure you’re wearing the right prescription glasses. Non-prescription glasses won’t correct an astigmatism, and while they won’t necessarily make it worse, wearing them will simply lead to even more eye strain and consequent discomfort.

Follow healthy eye habits

Adopting healthy habits into your daily routine to support your eye health is a proactive step to take, and it has some broader benefits. By eating a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals, staying hydrated, and taking regular breaks during prolonged visual tasks, you can lessen strain and discomfort over time. Even practicing good posture (or even sitting at an ergonomic seat) can also help reduce eye strain and discomfort.

Consider surgical options

If you are seeking a more permanent solution for astigmatism correction, you might want to consider a corrective surgery (i.e, laser). While not suitable for everyone, these procedures can reshape the cornea to improve its curvature and reduce dependence on corrective prescription glasses.

Monitor your symptoms

You ought to be equally as invested in your vision as we are! Pay attention to any changes or worsening of astigmatism symptoms, and get advice from your GP if you experience persistent visual discomfort, headaches, or other concerning signs.

Life with astigmatism doesn’t have to be a blur! By understanding the symptoms, exploring the treatments available, and being proactive with your sight health, you can improve the quality of your vision, on your terms.

Here at Optical Revolution, we’re dedicated to helping you see the world with clarity and confidence. Due an eye exam? You can book an appointment in Catford, Colchester, or Haywards Heath, or choose Bott’s in Eastbourne or Wheeler & Kirk in Southfields.

Astigmatism Explained: FAQs

1. How do I know if I have astigmatism?

Astigmatism tends to be diagnosed during a comprehensive eye examination carried out by an optometrist or ophthalmologist. Symptoms such as blurred vision, eye strain, and headaches may indicate astigmatism, but a professional evaluation is necessary for an accurate diagnosis.

2. Can astigmatism worsen over time?

While astigmatism typically remains relatively stable, certain factors such as eye growth during childhood or changes in the shape of the cornea can cause it to progress. Regular eye examinations can help monitor any changes in your astigmatism and ensure appropriate adjustments to your vision correction.

3. Are there any lifestyle changes that can help manage astigmatism symptoms?

While there’s no cure for astigmatism, adopting healthy eye habits can alleviate symptoms and promote overall eye health. These include maintaining a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals, practicing good posture to reduce eye strain, taking regular breaks during prolonged visual tasks, and protecting your eyes from harmful UV rays by wearing sunglasses outdoors.

4. Can astigmatism be corrected with laser eye surgery?

Yes, laser eye surgery, such as LASIK or PRK, can correct astigmatism by reshaping the cornea to improve its curvature. However, not all individuals with astigmatism are suitable candidates for laser eye surgery, and it’s essential to consult with an experienced ophthalmologist to determine eligibility and assess the potential risks and benefits.

5. What are the potential complications of untreated astigmatism?

Untreated astigmatism can lead to persistent visual discomfort, eyestrain, and headaches, particularly during activities that require clear and focused vision. An uncorrected astigmatism may also contribute to difficulties in tasks such as driving in the dark or reading the fine print on a leaflet, impacting overall quality of life.

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