It increasingly seems like the world is changing faster than we can keep up. Cars are driving themselves, nano robots are delivering chemotherapy to specific sites in the body and Elon Musk believes his hyperloop transport system will soon allow us to travel from New York City to Washington DC in about 30 minutes. But, amazing things have happened in other areas, too. As life-changing as never again having to battle the traffic in the I-95 corridor may seem to many of us, for those with an astigmatism, the ability to have their vision comfortably corrected with contact lenses is equally exciting. This was not always the case.
For a long time, those with an astigmatism were told that if the condition was not overly severe, hard or rigid contacts lenses might work. Many, however, were told that they simply were not good candidates for any type of contact lenses other than glasses. The problem has always been the shape of the cornea, which is the outer layer of the eye. The primary function of the cornea is to refract, meaning bend light. To borrow from a sports reference, a normal eyeball is totally round, like a basketball. Most people have a certain amount of irregularity in the shape of their eyes, which is called an astigmatism, but it is not usually enough to affect vision. When the irregularity is more pronounced, the shape becoming closer to a football than a basketball, the cornea is therefore unable to properly focus the light onto the retina.
When you were growing up, did your parents often scold you for reading in dim light and tell you that you were going to permanently damage your eyes? This is not true. You may cause your eyes to fatigue more easily if you do not have sufficient light, but the idea that there will be lasting damage has been long proven a myth. The same was sometimes thought with regard to having an astigmatism; that you could develop it from not having enough light when reading or sitting too close to the television. This is also not true. No one really knows exactly what does cause someone to have an astigmatism. Most are simply born with it, while some cases may result from a disease or injury to the eye.
How can you tell if you have an astigmatism? The best way, of course, is to make sure you have regular, yearly check-ups with your eye care professional. There are, however, signs to be aware of. Some of the most common ones include:
Correcting for myopia (nearsightedness) or hyperopia (farsightedness) becomes more problematic when there is a significant amount of astigmatism present. Eye glasses have always been able to make the correction, as did contacts that were sufficiently rigid. Unfortunately, for many the rigid lenses were never very comfortable, and the original soft lenses were not able to adequately correct the astigmatism. The good news is that has changed. Toric lenses, which are weighted to maintain proper lens rotation, as well as newer types of soft lenses are now being successfully prescribed for those with varying levels of astigmatism.
If you would like to learn more about treatments for astigmatism or any vision-related issue, Long Island Ophthalmic Concepts is ready to provide high-quality, comprehensive care in our four convenient Long Island office locations. For more information, or if you have other questions or comments, please call the office most convenient to you, Bellmore, Great Neck, Little Neck or Huntington. If you would like to schedule an appointment, simply click here to go to our online scheduler.