An astigmatism is a vision problem that can affect one of both of your eyes. It is very common in infants, but they usually grow out of it by their first birthday. Astigmatism causes blurry vision. The cornea of the eye is shaped like a football when an astigmatism is present instead of dome shaped. This change in the shape changes how light enters the eye. It can cause objects that are either near or far away to look blurry. You do not have to be farsighted or nearsighted to have astigmatism.
Your child is at a higher risk of having an astigmatism if there is a family history, they have a refractive error such as nearsightedness, or farsightedness, there was maternal smoking while pregnant with the child, or they are of Hispanic descent.
There are different types of astigmatism.
- Lenticular astigmatism is when the lens of the eye is affected instead of the cornea.
- Myopic astigmatism is when there is a combination of astigmatism and nearsightedness.
- Hyperopic astigmatism is the combination of astigmatism and farsightedness.
Astigmatisms can be also classified as regular or irregular. Regular astigmatism is when the 2 curves are 90 degrees apart. Irregular is when the 2 curves are not 90 degrees. Irregular astigmatisms are usually caused by injury, trauma, surgery, or Keratoconus.
Symptoms Of Astigmatism
Symptoms of astigmatism are squinting, eye strain, headache, sore eyes, trouble reading info from a written board at school, trouble recognizing faces, sensitivity to light, eye rubbing, holding a book too close to the face, and vision difficulty at night.
It can sometimes be hard to know your child is having trouble seeing, especially if they don’t have the vocabulary to tell you. Some children with astigmatism will not have any symptoms at all.
Astigmatisms are thought to be very common in children between 6-12 months old. About 23% of children between 6-12 months may have astigmatism. That number drops to about 9% of children ages 5-6 years old will have astigmatism. You can start taking your child to the eye doctor at 6 months old. Many astigmatisms will be outgrown by children before their first birthday without any treatment.
Some astigmatisms can become worse without treatment. It is important if you suspect there could be an eye problem to get your child checked by an eye doctor. Without treatment your child could develop a condition called lazy eye.
Diagnosing an Astigmatism
Diagnosing your child for astigmatisms can be done at a routine eye doctor exam. The doctor will be able to measure the shape of the cornea. Sometimes astigmatism or eye problems will be first noticed through a school exam done on your child. Lots of times children don’t know they have an eye problem because they know nothing different then how they see.
In some cases treatment is not needed for astigmatism. If your child is diagnosed with astigmatism it is important that they get checked yearly to make sure the problem isn’t getting worse.
If they need treatment the most common one is corrective glasses, or contacts. Contact lenses for astigmatism are call toric lenses, and are suggested for low grade astigmatism. If corrective lenses are not used when needed your child may develop a condition called amblyopia. This condition is when the brain doesn’t learn to see clearly with one or both eyes. When caught early enough this condition can be reversed.
Refractive surgery can be done to correct the shape of the eye in extreme cases.
If your child needs glasses, encourage them to wear them. In the picking process allow your child to pick out glasses that they like and are comfortable.
Restricting screen time can also help a child with astigmatism.
Work on some eye exercises to strengthen their eyes.
If they are active or in sports, make sure frames are durable, or discuss the possibility of contact lenses.
Make sure you are taking your child to their yearly eye exams.
If they are complaining about not being able to see in their current glasses, don’t wait until their yearly exam. Waiting can cause the problem to worsen.
Astigmatism is very common in children. Many children grow out of it, while others don’t. If your child has other eye problems such as nearsightedness, or farsightedness it is more common for them to have astigmatism as well.
An astigmatism is caused by an irregularly shaped cornea. Know the signs for vision problems in your children! #HealthSurgeon
READ MORE: Everyday Eye Health Care