What exactly is astigmatism?

21 Jan 2017

The word astigmatism must be one of the most commonly misspelt words in the English language: not only is it long and unorthodox, it also frustratingly sounds like two words as opposed to one!


So, before we even get into explaining what astigmatism is exactly, we are first of all happy to confirm that the word is definitely “astigmatism”, as opposed to “an astigmatism”.


A natural and extremely common eye error


Astigmatism is a very common eye condition which is a simply a ‘refractive error’ (as opposed to an ailment or illness, neither of which it is!).


Essentially, when someone has astigmatism, it simply means that the cornea is not perfectly round in shape. In other words, there is a slight imperfection in the curvature of the cornea which makes it more rugby ball than football, to put it in sporting terms!


So, whereas a perfectly curved cornea will reflect light rays onto the retina at the back of the eye, astigmatism will ensure that these light rays aren’t refracted properly, resulting in blurred or distorted vision.


Astigmatism is extremely common so although the word itself suggests something rather serious, 47% of people in the UK who wear glasses are thought to have it to some degree.


How do you get it?


It is totally natural and, as illustrated by the fact that 47% of people who wear glasses in the UK have it, almost as common as not having one!


The truth is that most people are born with it and there really is no explanation as to why this is the case but it is thought that is very possible that genetics could well play a role.


However, though most people with astigmatism are born with the condition, this is not always the case: astigmatism can also develop as a result of an eye injury or resulting from surgery undergone to repair an eye injury.


How is it treated and can I still have laser eye surgery?


Astigmatism can be very easily corrected simply by wearing glasses or contact lenses, or by undergoing laser eye surgery.


In the case of laser eye surgery, this procedure physically changes the shape of the cornea permanently, unlike glasses and contacts which will only correct it during those periods when you are wearing your glasses or contacts.


So, the fact of the matter is that laser surgery is the only permanent solution to astigmatism, and the only method which will enable you to live your life glasses or contacts free.


If you have an astigmatism and are fed up wearing (and losing!) glasses, or simply tired of the daily chore of wearing and maintaining your contact lenses, book a free consultation with Optilase and find out if laser eye surgery is a suitable option for you!

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