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Understanding Astigmatism -- Diagnosis & Treatment

How Is Astigmatism Diagnosed?

People usually complain of blurred vision, or children may not pass their vision exam at school before they’re diagnosed with astigmatism.

The doctor may use one or more of these four tests to diagnose astigmatism and measure its severity:

Understanding Astigmatism

Find out more about astigmatism:

Basics

Symptoms

Diagnosis and Treatment

Vision test. Using a standardized chart, patients read the letters they can see from 20 feet away. If your vision is 20/20, you can see at 20 feet what a normal eye can see from 20 feet. If your vision is 20/80, you can only see at 20 feet what a normal eye should be able to see from 80 feet away.

Refraction. A lens machine (phoropter) that contains corrective lenses is positioned in front of the eye and used to measure your prescription. Sometimes, the doctor looks at the light reflex from your eye through a handheld device called a retinoscope and uses handheld lenses to determine if any refractive error is present. Then the eye doctor will offer you different choices in lenses through the phoropter to refine the correction until you can see the vision chart clearly. After both eyes are measured, your doctor will write a prescription for eyeglasses or contact lenses based on which corrective lenses worked for you.

Keratometry. This machine measures the curvature of the central cornea. The cornea is the outer lens of your eye, like a car windshield. Corneas that have no astigmatism exhibit uniform or symmetrical curvature, while corneas with astigmatism do not have uniform curvature. The keratometer determines the steepest and the flattest curves of the cornea, measurements that tell your doctor about your corneas' shape and focusing power. The keratometer is also used to fit contact lenses and to monitor corneal curvature after eye surgery.

Corneal Topography. This advanced technology provides the most detailed information about the shape of a cornea. The patient looks at a visual target while the device collects thousands of tiny measurements. A computer then constructs a color map on the computer from the data. This corneal map allows the doctor to see a comprehensive picture of your cornea. Such sophisticated measurements are important for planning refractive surgery, cataract surgery, and occasionally for fitting contact lenses. Corneal topography is important in the diagnosis of keratoconus as a cause of astigmatism.

What Are the Treatments for Astigmatism?

Astigmatism can be corrected with glasses, contact lenses, or surgery. However, some doctors believe that people with very small amounts of astigmatism are best left untreated.

Eyeglass lenses are shaped to counteract the shape of the cornea or lens that's causing blurred vision. Eyeglasses work well when the patient looks straight ahead. But, depending on the specific correction, the glasses can make the floor or walls appear to tilt. This usually goes away completely as the patient gives the glasses a chance to work and gets used to them. Patients with significant astigmatism usually adjust to their first pair of glasses within a week or so. If they don't seem to be working, ask your doctor to recheck the prescription and verify the correction in your new glasses.

WebMD Medical Reference

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