The condition of irregular curvature of the cornea or the lens of the eye is known as astigmatism. In this condition, light cannot focus on the retina, which leads to blurred vision. Astigmatism is sometimes present at birth and often occurs in conjunction with myopia or hypermetropia. It is a kind of refractive error and it can be corrected with the help of glasses, contact lenses or surgery. Astigmatism is of two types - corneal astigmatism and lenticular astigmatism. When the cornea has an irregular curvature on one side, it is known as corneal astigmatism, and when the lens has an irregular curvature, it is known as lenticular astigmatism. Astigmatism is particularly difficult to diagnose in children, and parents should look out for signs and symptoms of this visual disorder.
Causes of Astigmatism
Astigmatism is sometimes present from birth. However, it might develop after a trauma or injury to the eye. Eye trauma that results in scarring of the cornea can cause astigmatism. Many people also develop astigmatism as a side effect of eye surgery.
Signs and Symptoms of Astigmatism
- Distorted or blurred image.
- Discomfort or irritation in eyes.
- Difficulty focusing on printed words or lines.
- Fatigue in eyes
- Children may tilt or turn their head to get a clearer image.
- Inability to see objects, both near and far, without squinting.
How to Detect Astigmatism in Kids
Since very young kids can also develop astigmatism, it is very important that parents should learn to recognize the symptoms. One of the earliest signs of astigmatism is difficulty in seeing words and alphabets written on the blackboard. If the child narrows his eyes to look at distant objects or holds a book too close to his eyes to read, then he might be suffering from astigmatism. The child might also have difficulty in reading and might suffer from poor concentration levels. The child may also complain of headaches and blurry vision. It is best to consult an eye specialist, who can help in diagnosing the problem, if any.
Treatment for Astigmatism
Astigmatism can be corrected with the use of eyeglasses, lenses and eye surgery. Corrective lenses compensate for the irregular curve of the cornea, such that the image from the lens is properly focused on the retina. Both type of corrective lenses - eyeglasses and contact lenses can be used for treating astigmatism. An optometrist can better advice you on which type of corrective lenses is suitable for your child. Contact lenses are generally prescribed to those children (or patients of any age) who often develop headache, eyestrain, or distortion of vision due to frequent tilting of their heads to see clearly.
Surgery is another option for treating astigmatism. Surgical treatments include LASIK, or Photorefractive Keratectomy (PRK). LASIK involves reshaping of the cornea by removing corneal tissue with the help of a laser beam. The removal of corneal tissue allows better refraction of light, and hence formation of a clear image.
Photorefractive Keratectomy (PRK) surgical treatment involves removing tissue directly from the surface of eye so as to change the curvature of the eye. This brings the cornea back in shape, which allows appropriate refraction of light, and hence, vision correction.
Astigmatism is generally a hereditary condition and is mostly present from birth. Mild astigmatism is common in young children and usually subsides with age. Usually children are not able to explain their vision disorder which makes the early diagnosis a bit difficult. Therefore, it is always safe to take your child to an ophthalmologist and get his eyes checked for astigmatism.