While almost everyone has some degree of astigmatism, a common eye problem that affects the way light enters your eye, it needs correction in about one-third of the cases.
Astigmatism is a type of refractive vision problem, so called because it affects the way light refracts or bends when it enters your eye. (Farsightedness and nearsightedness are other refractive vision problems.)
Astigmatism describes when the normally spherical cornea is elongated, shaped more like a football.
A round cornea allows light to enter the eye equally, striking the light-sensitive retina in one specific area for clear, crisp images. When the cornea is elongated, the light hits the retina in different areas, striking the retina at different locations and distorting vision.
At ABC Children’s Eye Specialists, our team uses advanced techniques to identify astigmatism as early as possible, so we can treat it before it affects your child’s quality of life. If your child has astigmatism, here are six ways this common vision disorder could be affecting their life.
1. Blurred vision
Blurry vision is a common symptom of astigmatism, and it happens with farsightedness (hyperopia) and nearsightedness (myopia) too.
The main difference is that astigmatism blurs your vision all the time, while the other two vision problems only cause blurriness at specific distances. Many people have astigmatism as well as either myopia or hyperopia.
Eyestrain develops when your eyes have to work extra hard to see or focus. If your child has astigmatism, they may complain of symptoms like:
- Eye aching or pain
- Itching or burning eyes
- Sensitivity to light
- Eye twitching
- Eyes that feel dry or scratchy
Many kids with eyestrain develop a squinting habit to help them see more clearly. Untreated eyestrain can make it harder for your kids to do their homework, to concentrate, and to participate in class, and it can also make homework a lot more frustrating.
Your child’s eyes “want” to see clearly, and when objects are blurry, they work extra hard to focus and create clear images. Focusing involves an array of muscles, and over time, those muscles can become strained, causing chronic headaches.
Headaches can also occur if your child squints frequently to see or read.
4. Poor night vision
When we’re in low-light conditions, our pupils open wider to let in more light. When you have astigmatism, it doesn’t matter how wide your eyes open — your vision will still be blurry. In fact, when your pupils widen and allow more light in, the elongated shape of the cornea can make blurriness worse.
5. Amblyopia (‘lazy eye’)
Amblyopia happens when one eye “drifts” out of alignment with the other. It often happens in kids as their eyes are developing. Amblyopia can develop if your child has one eye affected by astigmatism or if both eyes are affected to different degrees. Sometimes, amblyopia can cause double vision.
Keratoconus typically doesn’t happen until the teenage years (or later), developing as a result of progressively worsening astigmatism.
If your child has keratoconus, the cornea bulges out in the center and is thinner than normal around the edges. Without correction, keratoconus can lead to scars on the cornea.
The critical importance of regular eye exams
Eye exams are important for people at every age, but they’re especially critical during the childhood years while your child’s eyes are still growing.
Vision problems can develop rapidly during the childhood years, and unless they’re corrected quickly, they can have a devastating impact on your child’s growth and development.
School vision screenings are good for catching some basic eye problems, but they’re not designed to take the place of a regular comprehensive eye exam.
To learn more about astigmatism or to schedule an exam for your child at our Mesa or Phoenix, Arizona, offices, book an appointment online or over the phone today.