Astigmatism is a common eye condition. It is usually caused by the presence of a non-uniform shape to the cornea, with the cornea being more or less steeply curved in particular areas (meridians). The development of abnormalities in the natural lens inside your eye may also cause or contribute to astigmatism.
Normally, the combined refractive properties of the cornea and crystalline lens focus light rays sharply on the retina of your eye. In astigmatism, the lights rays of an object come to focus non-uniformly (a-stigma) in two planes. If short-sightedness (myopia) or long-sightedness (hypermetropia) are also present, the planes may be focused in front of or behind the retina, resulting in blurred vision.
The cause of astigmatism is not fully understood. Genetic factors are considered to play an important role and astigmatism is well known to run in families. High levels of astigmatism can be present in infancy, but it then declines rapidly during development and remain stable in childhood.
Astigmatism and other refractive errors can be diagnosed by your optometrist (optician) or eye doctor. The examination involves a refraction in order to assess the refractive status of the eye.
In the presence of moderate to high levels of astigmatism, a corneal topography scan may be indicated to exclude the presence of keratoconus; this scan maps the shape of the cornea in order to ascertain whether its shape is regular and thus normal. A rapid increase in myopia and astigmatism can also be a sign of keratoconus, a progressive condition in which the cornea becomes weaker and bulges forward; this requires further investigations.
Treatment options for astigmatism include glasses, contact lenses and refractive eye surgery.
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