Did you know that in a recent study of over 2,500 diverse children ages 5-17 years, over 28% of them had a degree of astigmatism that would require treatment?
Astigmatism is more common than you might think. However, what's interesting is the study revealed that Asian and Hispanic ethnicities are more prone to it than Caucasians.
Experts believe that astigmatism may have a genetic link, but it can also be attributed to uncorrected refractive treatment as a child, an eye illness or some sort of impact caused to the eye.
If you currently suffer from vision issues or are aware of a history of astigmatism in your family, you can take preventative measures by eating an antioxidant and nutrient-rich diet and protecting your eyes with eye supplements to help improve vision.
In this post we'll discover what astigmatism is, symptoms and types of astigmatism, and discuss natural treatments for astigmatism that can lower your risk factor and help control symptoms:
Table of Contents
- What is Astigmatism?
- Symptoms of Astigmatism
- Causes of Astigmatism
- Nearsightedness Vs. Farsightedness
- Types of Astigmatism
- Astigmatism Test
- Astigmatism Treatments
- Standard Astigmatism Treatment
- Natural Astigmatism Treatment
- Key Takeaways
What is Astigmatism?
Astigmatism is not an eye disorder but can be seen as a defect caused by an irregularly curved cornea which can cause blurry vision.
Similar to refractive errors like farsightedness and nearsightedness that require glasses or contact lenses, astigmatism occurs when the light entering the eye cannot maintain a single focus, which results in the vision getting blurred.
Astigmatism primarily occurs early in childhood, therefore it is very important to schedule your child for an eye exam, preferably when they start school, so it can be caught early through a comprehensive eye exam, and any vision issues caused by uncorrected astigmatism can be rectified.
Symptoms of Astigmatism
If your astigmatism is very slight, you may not even notice it. Only when you go for your yearly eye exam can it be picked up by your eye care specialist.
However, there are certain symptoms you should be aware of that indicate that you may have astigmatism.
Some of these include:
Seeing objects blurred is by far the biggest indicator of astigmatism. You may attribute blurry vision to eye fatigue, but don't take it lightly. Schedule an eye exam to know what's causing it.
If you're seeing blurred, double and distorted images you might be squinting — trying to focus on what you're trying to see with partially closed eyes, in an attempt to see them more clearly. If you find yourself squinting a lot, visit your eye doctor for a checkup.
Headaches can be caused by a lot of things, however, if your headaches are persistent and are accompanied by blurred vision and squinting, the problem might be your eyes. When you squint it can cause the facial, neck and head muscles to tighten, leading to headaches.
A combination of seeing blurred and double images, squinting and headaches can all eventually lead to eye strain and eye fatigue. Especially after a long day of being on a computer or doing focused work, you may feel an intense heaviness in the eyes.
Many people with astigmatism may also find it difficult to drive at nighttime. Astigmatism can cause distortion of images at every distance, so focusing becomes much harder in the dark, especially in a moving vehicle, with oncoming glare from headlights.
If you experience any of the above symptoms, schedule an eye checkup. If you already wear prescription glasses or contact lenses and are still having these issues, it might be time for a new prescription.
Causes of Astigmatism
The primary cause of astigmatism is an irregularly-shaped cornea, known as corneal astigmatism. So, instead of a normal 'round' shaped cornea, an eye affected with astigmatism will have more of an 'oval' shaped cornea.
Think basketball vs. rugby ball
Astigmatism can also be caused by an irregular curvature in the lens, known as lenticular astigmatism. In both corneal and lenticular astigmatism, light rays entering the eye don't converge on a single point on the retina, which causes blurred images, the main symptom of astigmatism.
Astigmatism can be of two types, regular and irregular astigmatism, and each has to do with the meridians of the eyes.
The eye has what are known as meridians, invisible lines drawn around the eyeball intersecting at the center of the pupil. The steepest and flattest meridians of the eye are called the 'principal meridians.' The steeper or flatter these meridians are, the more the vision will be impacted.
In regular astigmatism, the principal meridians are always 90˚ apart from each other. The most common form of astigmatism, the symptoms of regular astigmatism include blurred vision, headaches, eye strain, sensitivity to light, etc.
Standard prescription lenses are the most widely used treatment used to correct regular astigmatism. Contact lenses or laser eye surgery are also other ways to correct this type of astigmatism.
In irregular astigmatism, the principal meridians are not perpendicular, meaning they are separated by any other angle other than a 90° angle. Irregular astigmatism is highly uncommon as compared to regular astigmatism and is usually caused by corneal trauma, surgery, an eye infection or conditions such as Keratoconus, which is a thinning of the cornea.
Corrective glasses don't work well for irregular astigmatism and do not provide proper visual acuity, making irregular astigmatism much harder to treat. Contact lenses or certain surgical procedures are alternative treatment methods for irregular astigmatism.
Nearsightedness vs. Farsightedness
Before we discuss the different types of astigmatism let's cover basic refractive errors of the eyes to get a clearer picture.
If you need corrective eyeglasses or contact lenses you probably have one of two things (or a mix of both): nearsightedness or farsightedness.
Nearsightedness, also called myopia, is when you have problems seeing things at a distance. So you may not be able to clearly view people's faces who are standing a few feet away or read a road sign.
It occurs when the eyeball elongates over a period of time, changing the naturally rounded shape of the eyeball.
Nearsightedness affects millions and millions of people all over the world so it is fairly common, and can be corrected with prescription lenses. Experts also believe that there is a definite link between nearsightedness and astigmatism.
Farsightedness, also called hyperopia, is when you have trouble seeing things up close. This means you may not be able to read a newspaper without putting your reading glasses on, but you can probably drive without any problems.
Hyperopia is the opposite of myopia and occurs when the eyeball shortens, rather than elongates, as in myopia.
Types of Astigmatism
Astigmatism can be attributed to both, nearsightedness (myopia), or farsightedness (hyperopia), or both simultaneously, depending on the precise shape and slope of the eyeball.
Astigmatism can be of three types:
Attributed to nearsightedness, where one or both of the major meridians of the eye are myopic or nearsighted, but to a varying degree.
Attributed to farsightedness, where one or both of the major meridians of the eye are hyperopic or farsighted, but to a varying degree.
Attributed to both nearsightedness and farsightedness where one major meridian of the eye is nearsighted, or myopic, and the other is farsighted, or hyperopic.
Most astigmatisms are related to the shape of the cornea causing blurred vision, however, research has shown that myopic or nearsighted astigmatism is a lot more prevalent (almost double) to that of farsighted or hyperopic astigmatism.
Although a complete eye exam is essential to rule out whether you have astigmatism or not, you can perform this quick test from home.
First, remove your glasses or contact lenses, and stand three feet away from the computer screen. Now cover your left eye with your left hand and focus on the image. Repeat the same with the right eye.
If you see some lines appear blurry or more grey than the rest, you may have a vision problem. It's best to book an appointment with your eye doctor and get it checked out.
Can astigmatism be corrected? If you've discovered you do indeed have astigmatism, the good news is it can be treated.
Apart from following just standard treatment protocols for astigmatism, there are also many natural ways to improve your overall vision which includes lifestyle changes and taking antioxidant-rich eye supplements.
Standard Astigmatism Treatment
Astigmatism can be corrected by wearing eyeglasses with corrective ophthalmic lenses, contact lenses or even surgery.
By far the best way to correct astigmatism is to visit your eye doctor. Your doctor will conduct a comprehensive eye exam and can provide the appropriate prescription lenses you need to help you see clearly.
When it comes to wearing prescription contact lenses to correct astigmatism, they work really well for some people and not so much for others. With contact lenses, it really comes down to personal preference. If you've found a comfortable fit and you use them hygienically, they can be a safe and effective alternative to eyeglasses.
Today, special contact lenses known as soft 'toric' lenses are available and are specially designed for astigmatism. They have two powers built in, one for vision and the other for correcting astigmatism.
Depending on the type of astigmatism you have and the severity of it, refractive surgery is an option which basically involves altering the shape of your cornea on a permanent basis. What the surgery does is it changes the shape of the eye itself to allow light rays to form a single focus on the retina, improving vision.
If you're considering refractive surgery, such as LASIK, for example, it is always best to first consult with your eye doctor to see if this is a good option for you.
Natural Astigmatism Treatment
Whether you have regular astigmatism, caused by a genetic irregularity of the cornea or lens, or irregular astigmatism, caused by surgery or injury, there's one thing that you should keep in mind — any added eye strain can quite possibly aggravate your symptoms leading to increased eye fatigue, blurred vision, and headaches.
But there are definitely things you can do to prevent further eye strain and steps you can take to actually improve your vision:
Make an appointment with your eye doctor
There is a definite link between poor performance at school and undetected vision problems. Children can demonstrate symptoms of astigmatism early, so vision screening becomes critical once they start school. Even as an adult, if you notice slightly blurred vision, for example not seeing the edges around objects very clearly, you should schedule an eye exam.
When left untreated, astigmatism can lead to increased blurry vision, squinting, eye fatigue, difficulty concentrating and even persistent headaches.
Give your eyes a break
If you work on a computer all day, it's important to give your eyes a break. The first thing you should do is blink more often. Now we know this may sound strange as it is an unconscious activity but blinking more often allows the eyes to be more lubricated, preventing dryness. So try to do it more consciously.
The second thing you can do is follow the 20-20-20 rule to relax your eye muscles and give them a break throughout the course of the day.
"Every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds."
Look outside at a far away building, the horizon, trees or look at the sky. If you have a room with no view, look across to the furthest wall of the room and gaze at a painting on the wall.
Pay attention to light and air
If you already have astigmatism poor lighting can cause added eye strain as you try to squint, adding more stress on your eyes. Wherever you work, make sure you have adequate lighting. So for example, a good task light is essential for your work desk, even if you have overhead lighting.
Air quality is equally important. Both heating and air conditioning can dry out the air leading to dry eyes, redness, and irritation. Use a humidifier in your home or office space to add moisture to the air and relieve symptoms.
It may sound strange, but doing eye exercises may help improve the symptoms of astigmatism. The logic is simple — like all muscles in the body, if you don't work out your eye muscles you will lose them. Performing eye exercises can help to alleviate stress, relax and strengthen the muscles of the eye, and may even help to improve vision when done consistently.
This video below gives some insightful advice about a few exercises you can do to improve your astigmatism naturally:
Palming is also recommended to relax the eyes and improve eyesight. Pioneered by eye doctor William Bates a century ago, one of the most popular therapies in the Bates Method involves placing your palms over your eyes and staring into blackness — the premise is that when the eyes are not strained they can relax.
You may feel that if you already have astigmatism, there's nothing you can do about it. That is far from the truth. Most of us take our eyes for granted. However, astigmatism can worsen and vision problems can easily progress if you don't take care of your eyes.
A nutrient-rich diet is essential for eye health, as compared to a poor diet that may cause inflammation and lead to conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes, that can adversely affect the eyes. For healthy eyes fill your plate with:
- Leafy greens such as kale, Swiss chard, collard greens, and broccoli
- Wild seafood like Alaskan salmon and other oily fish (rich in essential fatty acids)
- Citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruit
- Berries like raspberry, strawberry, blackcurrants, and blueberries
- Root vegetables like sweet potatoes, beetroot, and carrots
- Eggs, beans, nuts, and seeds
At times you may be eating a healthy diet but you just can't get enough nutrients from it to work on a therapeutic level.
Eye supplements are rich in essential nutrients, antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals and can help to:
- combat free radical damage
- lower the risk for age-related macular degeneration
- alleviate glaucoma
- prevent cataracts
- strengthen the eyes
- and more
For example, astaxanthin, a powerful antioxidant found in salmon, is also available as an amazing high-quality supplement.
Astaxanthin is proven to protect against age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, inflammatory eye diseases and can help to strengthen the eyes, alleviating symptoms of eye strain, blurred vision, and astigmatism.
A dark purplish-black berry, blackcurrants are brimming with high levels of anthocyanin (powerful antioxidants), as well as essential fatty acids, and are excellent for alleviating the symptoms of dry eye, visual fatigue, and even glaucoma.
In fact, research showed that supplementing with black currant seed oil, "improved ocular irritation symptoms, maintained corneal surface smoothness, and inhibited conjunctival dendritic cell maturation," in postmenopausal women suffering from, "moderate to severe dry eye."
Adding nutrient-dense supplements to your eye care routine can be an excellent way to help to control symptoms of astigmatism from progressing, and actually improve vision.
- Astigmatism, an eye defect caused by an irregular cornea or lens, is very common. In fact, tens of millions of people all over the world have a degree of astigmatism
- Astigmatism can be genetic or linked to uncorrected refractive treatment in childhood, an eye illness or trauma to the eye
- The main symptoms include blurred vision, headaches, squinting and eye strain
- Astigmatism can be attributed to both, nearsightedness (myopia), or farsightedness (hyperopia)
- It can also be classified as 'regular' (caused by a genetic irregularity of the cornea or lens), or 'irregular' (caused by surgery or injury)
- Astigmatism can be corrected by wearing prescription eyeglasses, contact lenses or even surgery
- You can also control the progression of symptoms by taking natural precautions such as giving your eyes a break, doing eye exercises, and following a nutrient-rich diet
- Eye supplements like astaxanthin and black currant seed oil are rich in antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals and can help to alleviate symptoms of eye strain, blurred vision, and astigmatism