Astigmatism happens due to imperfections in the cornea’s curvature. Around one in three people has this refractive error. It also usually occurs with nearsightedness or farsightedness. A comprehensive eye exam can reveal if you have astigmatism and need to wear prescription glasses or contacts.
It isn’t uncommon for patients to ask if astigmatism can worsen over time. Keep reading to discover the answer to this frequently asked question.
What Is Astigmatism?
The cornea and lens work together to help you see clearly. Astigmatism occurs when these parts of your eyes develop irregularities. It causes light to focus on various points of the eye. People with a family history of astigmatism and advanced myopia or hyperopia are more likely to develop this refractive error. Individuals with thin cornea and who previously had eye surgery are also at higher risk.
Sometimes, keratoconus can affect the cornea’s surface, causing irregular astigmatism. This eye condition happens when the cornea thins out and bulges outward. Patients with keratoconus tend to experience blurred vision and light sensitivity.
Blurred vision, headaches and eyestrain are common symptoms of astigmatism. If you often find yourself squinting to see clearly, it could be a sign that you have this refractive error. Moreover, children don’t usually realize they have distorted vision. Uncorrected astigmatism can compromise your little one’s school performance. It can also lead to lazy eye or amblyopia and vision loss. Regularly seeing your eye doctor is vital to the early detection of astigmatism.
How Is It Diagnosed?
A routine eye examination can usually reveal if you have astigmatism. During your visit, expect your eye doctor to perform various tests to assess your eye health and vision. They might ask you to read letters on the Snellen or eye chart. It will let them examine the sharpness of your vision at certain distances.
To determine if you need to update your prescription eyewear, your eye doctor will ask you to look at a large device called a phoropter. They might use an autorefractor, an instrument that shines light into the eye. It will allow them to measure how light changes as it reflects on the back of the eye. Your specialist might also utilize a keratometer to measure the cornea’s curvature.
Can It Progress Over Time?
All refractive errors can worsen over time, including astigmatism. This eye condition usually doesn’t significantly progress until you’re in your 50s. As you age, your eyes lose muscle tone, placing pressure on the cornea. When this happens, your cornea can warp. The curvature of your cornea and lens also slowly changes as you age, causing astigmatism to worsen.
How Is It Treated?
Your eye doctor will most likely prescribe you with prescription glasses if they discover you have a refractive error like myopia, hyperopia or astigmatism. They will do a series of tests to learn which lenses are ideal for you.
Today, prescription glasses come in a wide selection of attractive frames. If you are unsure which style or color suits your face, seek advice from an optician. They can assist in fitting eyeglasses and help you select frames that accentuate your best facial features.
Contact lenses are a great option if you don’t prefer to wear eyeglasses. Eye care specialists typically recommend rigid gas permeable (RGP) lenses for patients with mild astigmatism. These lenses are more likely to retain their shape on your cornea, effectively correcting and sharpening your vision. Aspheric lenses are another option. They come in a unique shape that fits the curvature of your eyes.
People with astigmatism will also benefit from toric lenses. These lenses are less likely to shift or rotate when they are in your eyes since they are thicker. Toric lenses have a special shape that creates different focusing powers, helping correct corneal or lenticular astigmatism.
Orthokeratology or ortho-k involves wearing specially designed contact lenses overnight that temporarily reshape the cornea. It provides you with clear vision during the day without wearing prescription glasses or contact lenses. While this treatment does not permanently correct astigmatism, it can effectively manage the condition.
This treatment option is suitable for individuals who play contact or water sports. It’s ideal for people who work in dusty environments where it could be challenging to wear glasses or contacts. Do your allergies make it difficult for you to wear contacts? If so, ask your eye doctor about orthokeratology.
LASIK Eye Surgery
Laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis (LASIK) is a frequently performed laser refractive surgery. LASIK is generally safe and quick but isn’t suitable for everyone. You must consult eye care professionals to determine if you are a good candidate for this eye surgery.
During the procedure, your eye doctor will use a laser to change the cornea’s shape. People who undergo LASIK can achieve 20/20 vision or better. However, even after this eye surgery, you might still need glasses for night driving and reading as you age.
LASIK is known for its high success rate. Patients rarely experience complications, and most are happy with the procedure’s outcome. It’s normal to experience discomfort, dry eye and light sensitivity post-LASIK. These symptoms usually improve after weeks or months.
PRK Eye Surgery
Photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) is another type of refractive surgery. It’s where eye doctors use a laser to address refractive errors like astigmatism. Like LASIK, it involves using a laser to change the cornea’s shape to improve how light focuses on the retina. However, in PRK, your doctor won’t cut a flap in your cornea. This procedure is ideal for individuals with active lifestyles or occupations.
Your ophthalmologist will assess your eye health, measure your cornea and check your pupil size to determine if you are a PRK candidate. Also, expect your eye doctor to measure your refractive error. Specialists might discourage you from getting this PRK eye surgery if you have glaucoma, cataracts, uncontrolled diabetes, corneal scars or disease, and a history of eye infections.