Astigmatism is the most common type of eye condition people have. About one in three people have some sort of astigmatism. Astigmatism is typically treated with glasses, contact lenses, or in some cases, surgery. Here is everything you need to know about astigmatism before you visit your doctor.

What Is Astigmatism?

Typically, the eye is shaped close to a perfect sphere, or like a sports ball. In the case of astigmatism, the eye is oblong or shaped more like an oval than it is like a sphere. There are two types of astigmatism:

  • Horizontal Astigmatism: When the eye is wider than it is tall
  • Vertical Astigmatism: When the eye is taller than it is wide

How Do You Know If You Have Astigmatism?

Astigmatism usually causes some sort of vision impairment, so that would be the first sign that something is wrong. Because the cornea and lens are not perfectly round and lined up, so they do not refract light properly, and light falls short of the retina or falls behind it. This can cause the vision to be blurry. Additionally, astigmatism can be paired with another vision impairment like nearsightedness or farsightedness.

Other symptoms include:

  • Eyestrain
  • Headaches
  • Struggling to see clearly or straining eyes
  • Eye discomfort

How Do Doctors Diagnose Astigmatism?

If you think you may have astigmatism, you can ask a doctor to do a test. On the test, you will have to read letters on an eye chart and take tests with devices called phoropters, autorefractors, and keratometers. None of these tests should be painful. The tests will help your doctor see if you have astigmatism and what kind of correction they can offer you.

What Causes Astigmatism?

Doctors do not know why the cornea or lens might be misshapen, but it might be an inherited trait. People may also develop astigmatism from eye diseases or injuries, or after a serious illness.

How Is Astigmatism Treated?

There are two main ways that doctors will treat your astigmatism. These include:

Eyeglasses or Contact Lenses

Your doctor can give you a prescription for glasses or contact lenses, which can help refocus the light to the retina in the back of your eye. In essence, this will help you see more clearly. For contact lenses, you will usually get prescribed toric soft lenses, but doctors may prescribe RPG (rigid glass permeable) lenses for more severe cases of astigmatism.


In some cases, your doctor may recommend surgery to correct your astigmatism. This includes LASIK surgery and other similar procedures. Through the surgery, your doctor can change the shape of your cornea to change the way light travels through it, which will in effect make your vision clearer.

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