The asymmetric steepening of the cornea causes light to be focused unevenly, which is the main optical problem in astigmatism. To individuals with uncorrected astigmatism, images may look blurry or shadowed.

In other words, someone who has astigmatism doesn’t have a perfectly round shaped eyeball–it is shaped more like a football. As a result, the light doesn’t come into it and bend evenly to give you a clear view. Instead, the light gets bent more in one direction than another. As a result, only part of an object is in focus, and things at a distance may look blurry and wavy.

It is very common to have astigmatism along with other refractive errors, such as nearsightedness or farsightedness. These conditions are called refractive errors because they involve how your eyes bend (refract) light.

What causes astigmatism?

Most people are born with astigmatism. You can also get it after an eye injury, eye disease, or surgery.

On rare occasions, a condition called keratoconus can cause astigmatism by making the clear front part of your eye (your cornea) thinner and more cone-shaped. You’ll probably need contacts (not glasses) to see clearly.

What are the symptoms of astigmatism?

The most common symptoms associated with astigmatism include:

  • Blurry vision or areas of distorted vision
  • Eyestrain
  • Headaches
  • Trouble seeing at night
  • Squinting to try to see clearly or eye discomfort

If you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms, you need to see an eye doctor for a complete eye exam.

How is astigmatism diagnosed?

During your consultation, your eye doctor will conduct a comprehensive eye exam, including testing the sharpness of your eyesight by asking you to read an eye chart.

Other tools will also be used to measure your vision, such as a:

Phoropter. This device will help determine the best eyeglass or contact lens prescription for you. You look through a series of lenses to find the ones that give you the clearest vision.

Keratometer/topographer. This machine uses a circle of light to measure the curve of your cornea.

Autorefractor. This device shines light into your eye and measures how it changes as it bounces off the back, giving your eye doctor an idea of which lenses you need.

How do you know if you have astigmatism?

Many people will have both astigmatism and cataracts at the same time but never know it. Though both vision conditions share some symptoms, such as blurred vision, their causes are different. If you are not sure if you have astigmatism and/or cataracts, request an appointment online for a comprehensive eye exam.

What is the treatment for astigmatism?

Astigmatism can be corrected with glasses, contact lenses, corneal relaxing incisions, laser vision correction, and special implant lenses. At FIsher-Swale Nicholson, we offer a few options for treatment.

Corrective Lenses. Glasses or contacts can correct almost all cases of astigmatism. A special type of soft contact lenses, called toric lenses, can bend light more in one direction than the other.

Laser Eye Surgery. Laser surgery, such as LASIK and PRK, change the shape of your cornea

Eye Surgery. Other eye surgery options may include the following:

Arcuate Incisions

Arcuate incisions treat low to moderate degrees of astigmatism. Astigmatism may be thought of as the cornea is shaped like a football rather than being shaped like a basketball. As the name suggests, the surgeon makes small incisions in the limbus, which allows the cornea to become more rounded when it heals.

Arcuate incisions are placed on the far peripheral aspect of the cornea (the limbus), resulting in a more rounded cornea. Astigmatism is reduced, and uncorrected vision is improved. Arcuate incisions can correct astigmatism and are usually made at the time of cataract, using the Lensar Laser clear lens exchange, or ICL surgery to reduce or eliminate astigmatism and thus increase the chances for better vision without eyeglasses.

Visian ICL

Visian Implantable Collamer Lens (ICL) provides High Definition Vision, which is sharper and clearer than most other forms of vision correction. Patients with nearsightedness and/or astigmatism may be candidates for this next generation in vision correction.

Dr. Swale on Visian ICL

The Visian ICL is gently placed through a tiny incision in the cornea. Due to its flexibility, the lens is folded and inserted through a self-sealing micro-incision allowing for a quick recovery. The Visian ICL unfolds and is then positioned behind the iris and in front of the natural lens of the eye. Once placed in the eye, the patient will not feel or see the Visian ICL, but they will notice the dramatic improvement in their vision.
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Clear Lens Exchange

Clear Lens Exchange (CLE) may be a better option than LASIK, PRK, or Visian ICL surgery for people with presbyopia and high hyperopia (farsightedness). Clear Lens Exchange replaces your eye’s clear natural lens with an artificial lens to correct your distance and near vision, reducing your need for reading glasses or bifocals. 

CLE is performed on an outpatient basis under local anesthesia and is laser-assisted. The surgeon will perform surgery on one eye at a time, usually 2 weeks apart. The CLE procedure usually takes about 20 minutes or less to perform. During CLE surgery, small incisions are made at the edge of the cornea using the LENSAR laser. The natural lens is then broken into small pieces and removed. Next, the artificial lens is inserted, which will reside permanently.
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Toric Astigmatism Intraocular Lens (IOL)

Toric Astigmatism IOLs are premium lenses that with the assistance from a LENSAR Laser, can correct both cataracts and astigmatism, as well as nearsightedness or farsightedness. They are ideal for cataract patients who wish to reduce the need for glasses or contacts for distance vision following surgery.
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Contact Us

Comprehensive eye exams provide important information to your eye doctor about the overall health of your eyes. Having regular eye exams is important to ensure your vision lasts a lifetime. Give Fisher-Swale-Nicholson Eye Center a call at (815) 932-2020 to schedule a consultation for astigmatism and treatment options that may be best suited for you and your lifestyle. You may also request an appointment online.