Yes, astigmatism can indeed worsen over time. However, its progression differs for everyone and varies from person to person.
Causes & Symptoms of Astigmatism
Astigmatism is a refractive error affecting 30% of people worldwide. It occurs when the eye’s cornea or lens is irregularly shaped. This uneven shape affects how light enters the eye, causing it to bend in different directions, leading to blurred or distorted vision.
These vision problems can lead to a range of symptoms, including:
- Eye strain
- Difficulty reading
- Blurry vision
- Trouble seeing at night
It’s still unknown exactly what causes astigmatism. However, the risk of developing astigmatism can be inherited from parents. Astigmatism can also occur due to:
- Eye disease
- Eye injury
- Surgical procedures
Early detection of astigmatism allows for timely correction, preventing discomfort, supporting proper visual development in children, and monitoring overall eye health. If you’re experiencing any symptoms, schedule an appointment with your eye doctor. With the right plan, managing this condition is possible.
Different Types of Astigmatism
Astigmatism can occur in varying degrees, with some individuals experiencing mild astigmatism while others have a more pronounced condition. It can also occur alongside other refractive errors.
- Corneal astigmatism occurs when the cornea is irregularly shaped, often resembling a football. It can be caused by genetics, eye injuries, or natural changes in the cornea over time.
- Lenticular astigmatism occurs due to abnormalities in the lens of the eye. The lens may have an uneven curvature, leading to distorted vision. Lenticular astigmatism can be present at birth or develop due to age-related changes in the lens.
- Myopic astigmatism occurs due to a combination of nearsightedness (myopia) and astigmatism, meaning the cornea or lens are asymmetrical, causing light to focus at different points in front of the retina. It results in blurred vision for both close-up and distant objects.
- Hyperopic astigmatism occurs when the eye has both farsightedness (hyperopia) and astigmatism. Like myopic astigmatism, the cornea or lens is irregularly shaped, but the light focuses at different points behind the retina, leading to blurry vision for both near and far objects.
- Mixed astigmatism combines elements of both myopia and hyperopia with astigmatism. The cornea or lens has an irregular shape that causes light to focus at multiple points in front of and behind the retina, resulting in blurred vision for both near and distant objects.
Astigmatism can also be regular or irregular:
- Regular astigmatism occurs when the curves of the cornea are positioned at a 90-degree angle to each other. The curvature of each curve is consistent throughout and is more uniformly shaped.
- Irregular astigmatism can be caused by corneal scarring after eye injuries or keratoconus, a degenerative eye disorder that causes the cornea to thin and take on a more conical shape over time.
Why Does Astigmatism Get Worse?
Astigmatism can worsen due to various factors, including:
- Age-related changes: As with other refractive errors, astigmatism can progress with age. Changes in the shape or flexibility of the cornea or lens over time can contribute to increased astigmatism.
- Eye growth in children: In some cases, astigmatism can change during childhood as the eye continues to grow and develop. Sometimes, astigmatism can naturally improve or worsen as the eye structure changes.
- Corneal changes: Injuries, eye conditions, or surgical procedures involving the cornea can potentially alter its shape, leading to changes in astigmatism.
- Other eye conditions: Conditions like keratoconus (a progressive thinning of the cornea) or scarring from eye injuries can lead to changes in astigmatism.
- Environmental factors: Prolonged use of screens or extended periods of close work without adequate breaks can strain the eyes, temporarily worsening astigmatism-related symptoms.
Can Astigmatism Be Cured?
Astigmatism is not “curable” in the traditional sense, but it can be effectively managed and corrected, usually with glasses or contacts. If you’re over 18, you may qualify for laser eye surgery like LASIK or PRK, which reshapes the cornea.
It’s essential to speak with your eye doctor to determine the best option for you. With regular check-ups and maintenance of corrective lenses, astigmatism can usually be managed in a way that preserves clear vision.
When Is It Time to Book an Appointment?
Astigmatism is common, yet many people don’t know much about it or what to do when they notice a change in their vision. The first step is to schedule an appointment with your optometrist. They can perform a series of tests to determine the cause of the change and provide appropriate treatment.