What Is Astigmatism?

For a person with perfect vision, there are no distortions either near nor far. Everything is picture perfect! If a person is either nearsighted or farsighted, objects will typically appear blurry without glasses or contacts. For many people, the curvature of the eye’s cornea, or its lens, is slightly off on one side or another creating astigmatism. For some angles of vision, the cornea and lens can no longer properly focus on the back part of the eye, the retina. 


Astigmatism is very common. It is often present at birth and may occur with either nearsightedness or farsightedness. Doctors do not yet know why the problem develops, though if one thinks about it a bit, and knows the complexity of the eye, it is amazing we can see in the first place.

Like nearsightedness, farsightedness, and keratoconus, the eyeball is not perfectly round for one reason or another; the reasons vary from person to person. Problems may result from this imperfection causing any the following:

  • Blurry or distorted vision at all distances
  • Difficulty driving at night or seeing in a classroom
  • Eyestrain from excessive squinting
  • Headaches
  • Eye discomfort

A person with astigmatism may be able to see things more clearly if the objects are off-center from sight; when that person is not intentionally looking at those objects. Double vision is severe astigmatism. Keratoconus is a special type of astigmatism and is more common in older people.

It is usually difficult for parents to first notice when their children start having vision problems. Those problems are most often noticed by a schoolteacher when a child cannot correctly see what is at the front of the class. So if your child has problems seeing things either near or far, it is time to see an optometrist. Ideally, your child will see an eye doctor before starting kindergarten or first grade.

An optometrist will use a phoropter to examine your eyes. That is the binocular-like instrument that has you look at an eye chart. We may also use other testing instruments based upon what is discovered. These tests help us to determine how to shape a lens for each eye.

Mild to moderate astigmatism can be corrected with either eyeglasses or contact lenses. For severe astigmatism, glasses or rigid contact lenses may be used. Depending upon the overall eye condition, a LASIK surgery might solve or reduce the vision problems.

If you have any vision issues and need an optometrist, please contact Edward Bancroft OD in Anchorage or the Palmer Vision Clinic. We will be happy to schedule an appointment, give you an eye exam, and help you to see life more clearly.


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