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If your vision is blurred, unfocused, or fuzzy, you may have astigmatism. This common eye disorder affects the way light enters your eye. Approximately 1 in 3 people suffers from astigmatism. While mild cases typically need no treatment, if your vision is negatively impacting your life, treatment can help.

Treating Astigmatism at UVA Health

Depending on your doctor’s assessment, there are several treatment options.

  • Corrective Lenses

    Your doctor can prescribe special glasses or toric contact lenses. Toric contact lenses, unlike regular contact lenses, don’t have a uniform thickness. Instead, they’re formed to correct the uneven curvature of the cornea.

    With the correct fitting, toric lenses will provide the right amount of correction while fitting comfortably.

  • Surgery for Astigmatism

    Your doctor may recommend eye surgery to correct your cornea's irregular curve.

    The three surgeries most often are:

    • Photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) — the cornea is reshaped using laser beams.
    • Radial keratotomy (RK) — small incisions (cuts) are made into the cornea in order to flatten it.
    • Laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis (LASIK)— The cornea’s curve is reshaped by laser beams.

The most common way to correct vision is LASIK. At UVA, we have a comprehensive eye clinic, with a dedicated LASIK team. Find out more about getting LASIK at UVA, and read through some of our patients’ most frequently asked LASIK questions

Astigmatism Symptoms

The main symptom of astigmatism is blurred vision. This blurriness can lead to squinting, headaches, and even lightheadedness. Most people notice that the blurriness is worse at night. Struggling with nighttime driving is the main reason people seek out treatment.

Who Gets Astigmatism?

There’s no known precise cause of astigmatism. While some people have it at birth, others get it later in life due to injury or disease. Sometimes age itself is enough to create some degree of blurred vision. While it can occur with either near or farsightedness, it can also occur on its own.

There are some risk factors that can increase your likelihood of developing astigmatism though.

  • Heredity
  • Previous eye surgery
  • Corneal scarring or thinning
  • Excessive near or farsightedness

What Causes the Blurriness?

There are actually two types of astigmatism. In corneal astigmatism the cornea (the front surface of the eye) is misshapen. In lenticular astigmatism, the lens is misshapen. When light hits the irregular curve it refracts, causing the blurriness.

How Is Astigmatism Diagnosed?

During a comprehensive eye exam, an eye doctor, or ophthalmologist, can detect the signs of astigmatism. Often even in the early stages. There are several tests that can help your eye doctor make the diagnosis.

  • Visual acuity test: For this test you’ll be asked to read letters from a chart to establish how well you see at distances.
  • Refraction test: The doctor will have you look through the phoropter and determine which lenses make your vision clearer. This test helps determine refractive error.
  • Keratometry: A keratometer is used to measure the curvature of the cornea. This test isn’t uncomfortable and won’t involve any physical contact with your eye. All you’ll need to do is sit still and look at a light.
  • Corneal topography: This test provides a detailed map of the cornea's surface. This helps the eye doctor see irregularities in the cornea’s curvature.
  • Autorefractor: This computerized instrument measures the reflection of light off your retina. This gives an eyeglass prescription estimate.
  • Retinoscopy: This test involves shining a light into your eye and observing the way the light reflects off your retina. Based on the reflection, the eye doctor can determine your eyeglass prescription.