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So, You Have Astigmatism: What You Need To Know About Your Condition

You're sitting in your eye doctor's chair, struggling to see the eye chart. The doctor steps back from examining your eyes and says "Yep, you have some astigmatism." A quick pair of glasses or contacts, and you're out the door before you have the chance to think of questions ask questions about this condition. Here's a look at a few questions you may have now that your diagnosis has had time to set in.

What is astigmatism and why does it make your vision blurry?

Astigmatism is a condition in which the cornea, which is the front part of your eye, is shaped irregularly. Often, the cornea has too much of a curve rather than being relatively flat. This altered curvature changes the angle at which light enters the eye and hits the retina. It causes light to bounce off of surfaces, rather than being directed straight to the back of the eye, which leads to blurry vision.

What causes astigmatism?

Astigmatism is a genetic abnormality. You were born with the condition – there is nothing you did in your life to cause it, and there is nothing you could have done to prevent it from developing. Though most people first show signs of astigmatism when they are children, it is possible for it not to start affecting your vision until you're older and the shape of your head or face changes in such a way as to alter the way your eyes are positioned and how light enters them.

 Are there any side effects or consequences to worry about?

In short, no, there are no serious consequences to worry about. Patients with astigmatism simply have poorer vision than those with normally shaped corneas. Prescription glasses or contacts can make up for this poorer vision, though you may need to wear contact specially shaped for astigmatic eyes to ensure they fit properly.

Can astigmatism be corrected or cured?

Some patients with astigmatism can be treated with laser eye surgery to correct the curvature of the eye and restore full vision. However, whether or not you are a candidate for this procedure will depend on the severity of your astigmatism as well as your overall health. Your eye doctor can let you know whether laser corrective surgery is an option.

If you've been diagnosed with astigmatism and your eye doctor acted like it's not a big deal – that's because it's really not! This is a very common condition, and for the vast majority of patients, its only impact is that they must wear glasses or contacts to see clearly.