Astigmatism: Symptoms, Tests & Treatment (2023)


Astigmatism: Symptoms, Tests & Treatment (1)

What is astigmatism?

Astigmatism is the medical term that means the shape of your eye is more curved than it should be. It’s a type of refractive error — an extremely common eye condition that causes blurred vision.

Usually, eyes are round, like a baseball. If you have astigmatism, your eye is shaped like a football or the back of a spoon. This makes light that enters your eyes bend unevenly and affects your vision at all distances.

Visit an eye care specialist as soon as you notice any changes in your eyes or feel like your vision isn’t as clear as it used to be.

What does astigmatism do to your vision?

The parts of your eyes work together like a relay team to pass light that enters your eye along a pathway to your brain. Light passes through your cornea — the clear part at the front of your eye. Your cornea focuses that light through your lens into a signal that hits your retina — the layer at the very back of your eyeball. Your retina converts that light into electrical signals that your optic nerve sends to your brain. Your brain then uses those signals to create the images you see.

If you have astigmatism, light that enters your eye is bent more than it should be. The light can’t properly focus on your retina. This means only parts of an object you’re looking at are in focus. That uneven focus makes objects look blurry or wavy. Astigmatism can affect your vision at any distance — both up close and farther away.

You might experience eye strain — like your eyes are constantly working too hard to see.

What are the types of astigmatism?

Astigmatism is usually caused by your cornea having an irregular shape. Eye care specialists call this corneal astigmatism.

You can also have lenticular astigmatism, where the lens in your eye has an irregular shape. Lenticular astigmatism is often caused by cataracts.

Some people have both corneal and lenticular astigmatism.

Who is affected by astigmatism?

Anyone can experience astigmatism. You can develop it at any point in your life. Some people are born with astigmatism. Others don’t develop it until they’re adults. It can get better or worse over time.

Astigmatism is very common. 1 in 3 people has astigmatism.

Symptoms and Causes

What are astigmatism symptoms?

Blurred vision is the most common astigmatism symptom. It also makes it hard to see details on objects, like the words printed on a menu in front of you, or letters on a road sign in the distance.

Other astigmatism symptoms include:

  • Seeing a glare or halos around lights.
  • Squinting to see clearly.
  • Headaches.
  • Fatigue.
  • Eye strain.

Some young children don’t know there’s anything wrong with their vision, even if they’re experiencing symptoms. Visit an eye care specialist if you notice your child squinting, rubbing their eyes or having frequent headaches.

What causes astigmatism?

Astigmatism is usually hereditary, which means it’s a condition biological parents pass down to their children. It can also be caused by your eyelids putting too much pressure on your cornea.

Astigmatism usually isn’t caused by health conditions. Some conditions and issues that can cause astigmatism include:

  • Eye injuries.
  • Keratoconus.
  • Complications after eye surgery.

Diagnosis and Tests

How is astigmatism diagnosed?

An eye care specialist will diagnose astigmatism with an eye exam. They’ll look at your eyes (including inside them).

Your eye care specialist might use a few tests to diagnose astigmatism, including:

  • Visual acuity test: A visual acuity test is a test that checks your vision. You’ve had a visual acuity test if you’ve ever looked at a wall chart of letters or symbols during an eye exam.
  • Refraction test: Your eye care specialist will measure how much light focuses and is bent as it enters your eye.
  • Keratometry: Keratometry measures your cornea’s curve.
  • Slit lamp exam: A slit lamp is a special microscope with a bright light that your eye care specialist shines into your eye. They’ll adjust the brightness and thickness of the light’s beam to see the different layers and parts of your eye.

Management and Treatment

How is astigmatism treated?

Most people with astigmatism need corrective lenses. Your eye care specialist will recommend eyeglasses or contact lenses to help you see clearly.

If the astigmatism is very mild (and doesn’t affect your vision), you might not need glasses or contacts. Your eye care specialist will measure any changes in your eye during future eye exams. Astigmatism can change over time and get worse, so you might need glasses or contacts eventually, even if you don’t at first.

Can astigmatism be corrected?

Wearing glasses or contacts will correct your vision, but they won’t change the shape of your eye. Vision correction surgery (including LASIK eye surgery and photorefractive keratectomy or PRK eye surgery) uses lasers to fix vision problems. A specially trained ophthalmologist will perform these procedures to change the shape of your cornea so light hits your retina correctly.

People who have cataracts and astigmatism can have both treated at the same time during cataract surgery.

These surgeries will reduce astigmatism and improve your vision. Talk to your eye care specialist if you’re interested in vision correction surgery.

Care at Cleveland Clinic

  • Schedule an Eye Exam
  • Find a Doctor and Specialists
  • Make an Appointment


How can I prevent astigmatism?

You can’t prevent astigmatism. Most people who have astigmatism are born with it. Others develop it as their eyes grow and change throughout their lives.

If you have astigmatism or another type of refractive error, there’s a chance your children might as well.

When should I have my eyes examined?

Having your eyes and vision checked regularly can help an eye care specialist identify problems right away. How often you should get your eyes checked usually depends on your age.

  • Kids: A pediatrician should check your child’s eyes at every well-child visit until they’re old enough to start school, and then every one to two years.
  • Adults younger than 40: Every five to 10 years.
  • Adults between 40 and 54: Every two to four years.
  • Adults older than 55: Every one to three years.

You might need your eyes checked more often than this if you wear glasses, contacts or need another type of visual aid. People with diabetes also need their eyes checked more often than what’s listed here.

Ask an eye care specialist how often you need an eye exam.

Outlook / Prognosis

What can I expect if I have astigmatism?

If you have a small degree of astigmatism that doesn’t affect your vision, you might not need any treatment. If you have a significant astigmatism that makes it hard to see clearly, there are lots of ways your eye care specialist can treat it. Many people with astigmatism only need glasses or contact lenses.

Most people who have vision correction surgery have permanently improved vision. Some people need an enhancement procedure as they get older. This follow-up procedure will correct any changes in the astigmatism that happen after your eyes naturally change shape as you age.

Living With

When should I see an eye care specialist?

Visit an eye care specialist as soon as you notice any changes in your eyes — especially if your vision is getting noticeably worse or blurry. Astigmatism symptoms are usually very noticeable at night, when it’s raining or when you look at lights.

What questions should I ask my eye care specialist?

  • Which type of astigmatism do I have?
  • Will I need corrective lenses?
  • Are glasses or contacts better for my eyes?
  • Am I a good candidate for vision correction surgery?
  • How often should I have my eyes examined?

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Astigmatism is a common condition that makes the shape of your eye more curved than it should be. The blurry vision astigmatism causes can be annoying and make it hard to participate in your daily routine. Fortunately, most people with astigmatism only need glasses or contacts to see clearly. Talk to your eye care specialist if you’re interested in vision correction surgery.

Young children probably won’t be able to understand or tell you that their vision is worse. Visit an eye care specialist if you notice your child squinting a lot or having frequent headaches.


What tests are done to diagnose astigmatism? ›

Keratometry: This test is specifically used to check for astigmatism. During this test, your eye doctor will check your cornea using a keratometer, which measures the curvature of the cornea by focusing a circle of light on the cornea and measuring its reflection.

How can I test myself for astigmatism? ›

To use an eye chart at home, you'll need to:
  1. Print the chart.
  2. Place the chart on a wall with no windows on it.
  3. Place a chair 10 feet away from the wall. Sit in the chair.
  4. Make sure the chart is at eye level.
  5. Cover one eye.
  6. Read the smallest letters you can see clearly.
  7. Repeat with the other eye.
Mar 7, 2023

What is the common treatment for astigmatism? ›

The most common treatments for astigmatism are eyeglasses or contact lenses. Your eye doctor will prescribe the right lenses to help you see as clearly as possible. Doctors can also use surgery to treat astigmatism. The surgery changes the shape of your cornea so that it can focus light correctly.

What are the four symptoms of astigmatism? ›

Signs and symptoms of astigmatism may include: Blurred or distorted vision. Eyestrain or discomfort. Headaches.

What causes astigmatism to worsen? ›

Astigmatism frequently worsens with age. Your cornea can become more irregular due to pressure from your eyelids as they lose muscle tone. Astigmatism generally stays stable until your turn 50.

Can an optometrist see astigmatism? ›

An eye exam performed by an eye doctor can confirm your condition. Your optometrist can administer a battery of tests, including a refraction test, corneal topography, and keratometry, to determine the degree of your astigmatism.

What can mimic astigmatism? ›

Here are two severe eye conditions some patients mistakenly believe are astigmatism.
  • Keratoconus. Like astigmatism, keratoconus is a disorder caused by irregularly shaped corneas. ...
  • Pellucid Marginal Degeneration.
Apr 24, 2015

What does eyesight look like with astigmatism? ›

Blurred vision is the most common astigmatism symptom. It also makes it hard to see details on objects, like the words printed on a menu in front of you, or letters on a road sign in the distance. Other astigmatism symptoms include: Seeing a glare or halos around lights.

Can you have 20 20 vision and still have astigmatism? ›

You can have 20/20 vision and still have astigmatism. Unlike presbyopia that makes focusing on close objects difficult or impossible or myopia that makes focusing on distant objects difficult or impossible, astigmatism gives you sometimes clear vision and sometimes blurry vision at all distances.

Is it worth it to correct astigmatism? ›

For the majority of people, mild astigmatism does not cause significant vision changes and therefore does not need correction. However, when astigmatism causes blurred or distorted vision, correction is necessary.

How can I fix my astigmatism without surgery? ›

Astigmatism Treatment. Glasses or contacts can correct almost all cases of astigmatism. But if you have only a slight astigmatism and no other vision problems, you may not need them. If you have a common level of astigmatism, you'll probably have corrective lenses, like glasses or contacts, or surgery.

Should I wear glasses all the time for astigmatism? ›

Astigmatism does not always require the use of glasses. A person can have slight astigmatism and still see clearly. Similar to the rest of the body, the eyes change over time, so regular eye checks with your local optometrist are of importance.

Who is most affected by astigmatism? ›

Astigmatism is often present at birth but it can also develop over time, and most often occurs with myopia (nearsightedness) or hyperopia (farsightedness). The rate of astigmatism significantly increases from 14.3% in the under 15-year-old age group to 67.2% in the age group of over 65-years old.

What problems does astigmatism cause? ›

Astigmatism is a common vision problem caused by an error in the shape of the cornea. Symptoms can differ from person to person but may include blurry vision and difficulty seeing at night. With astigmatism, the lens of the eye or the cornea, which is the front surface of the eye, has an irregular curve.

At what age does astigmatism develop? ›

Most cases of astigmatism are hereditary and appear at birth. For some people, the condition can develop later in life.

What should you avoid if you have astigmatism? ›

Reduce eye strain
  • Use good light for reading, work, or study. Use a soft background light plus a light on your task.
  • Choose large-print books. ...
  • Take frequent breaks when you do close work that can be hard on your eyes. ...
  • Avoid glare on TV and computer screens.

Can rubbing eyes make astigmatism worse? ›

Probably the most important thing to note about astigmatism is that it can worsen due to eye rubbing.

Do glasses make astigmatism worse? ›

Wearing glasses can't make astigmatism worse, even if they are the wrong prescription. Astigmatism is caused by the shape of the eye's cornea or lens, and glasses can't change those.

How do people with astigmatism see at night? ›

Some of the effects of astigmatism at night include: Blurred or fuzzy vision. Light halos surrounding traffic lights. Starburst effects on lights.

What do lights at night look like with astigmatism? ›

Astigmatism can make your vision blurry and particularly affect your night vision. You may notice that lights look fuzzy, streaky, or surrounded by haloes at night, which can make driving difficult.

How do you treat astigmatism naturally? ›

Reading It helps to release the strain and pressure caused by astigmatism.
  1. Pull out a book.
  2. Place an object on the side. Focus on the side object after reading a paragraph from the book.
  3. It is advised to continue this until your eyes start to feel tired, 2-4 times a day.
Feb 11, 2019

Can dry eyes affect astigmatism? ›

Dry eye is probably the single biggest cause of irregular astigmatism.

Can astigmatism cause tiredness? ›

Even a slight degree of astigmatism may lead to headaches, fatigue and reduced concentration. Most astigmatism is caused by the shape of the front surface of the eye (the cornea) or by slight tilting of the lens inside the eye. It may be inherited or a normal variation accompanying growth.

What are the 5 types of astigmatism? ›

The difference in the focusing powers results in two different focal points on the retina and the blurry vision associated with astigmatism.
  • Myopic Astigmatism. ...
  • Hyperopic Astigmatism. ...
  • Mixed Astigmatism.

Is astigmatism considered a disability? ›

Astigmatism is a common visual impairment for which many veterans may not realize they could collect disability compensation.

What is the difference between astigmatism and stigmatism? ›

Stigmatism is a general term used to describe an irregular shape of any of a number of parts of the eye. An astigmatism is also an eye condition, but only affecting the shape of the cornea. Astigmatisms are relatively common and occur whenever the cornea has an irregular curvature.

What is considered severe astigmatism? ›

Between . 75 and 2 diopters is considered mild astigmatism. Between 2 and 4 diopters is moderate astigmatism, and 4 or more diopters is considered significant or “bad” astigmatism. Generally, eyes with 1.5 diopters of astigmatism or more require correction.

What type of glasses are best for astigmatism? ›

Do You Need Special Glasses for Astigmatism? You'll need prescription glasses with cylindrical or spherocylindrical lenses, which are different from the lenses found in single-vision glasses that only correct for nearsightedness and farsightedness.

Why does squinting help astigmatism? ›

The shortening of the focal line decreases point spread function in exchange for a decreased amount of light (contrast). It follows then that squinting may improve distance vision in WTR astigmatism and near vision in ATR astigmatism, respectively.

Do prescription glasses fix astigmatism? ›

Prescription Glasses

Wearing eyeglasses is one popular way to correct astigmatism. After diagnosing your astigmatism, your doctor can determine your eye prescription and fit lenses into the frames of your choice.

Does insurance cover LASIK for astigmatism? ›

LASIK is never a procedure that is covered by insurance. The only possible exception is for astigmatism induced by previous eye surgery. And even that is quite rare.

Will LASIK fix astigmatism? ›

LASIK eye surgery is an effective type of laser-assisted refractive surgery that can be used to treat common vision problems including astigmatism, myopia (nearsightedness), and hyperopia (farsightedness).

Is LASIK worth it for astigmatism? ›

So, does LASIK work for astigmatism? The answer is usually yes. LASIK is successful in treating most people's astigmatism, as long as it's the right type and it falls within the treatment limits. With the technology used in our practice, we are typically able to treat patients who have high levels of astigmatism.

What happens if you don't fix astigmatism? ›

Symptoms of astigmatism will grow worse over time

If you have astigmatism, and have not had it corrected it through surgical means, there's a significant chance you'll notice the quality of your vision declining over time. This deterioration can happen slowly…but eventually, it'll become all too difficult to ignore.

Which vitamin is good for eye? ›

Vitamin A and vision make potent allies. Carrots contain lots of beta carotene and Vitamin A, which can contribute to your eyes' health and may provide a fantastic source of eye vitamins for macular degeneration and cataracts. Good sources of Vitamin A and rhodopsin are also abundant in carrots.

Are there eye exercises for astigmatism? ›

Pencil push-ups are great for improving vision and reducing astigmatism. To perform this exercise: Hold a pencil at arm's length and focus on the tip. Slowly move the pencil closer to your face and focus on it until it is about 6 inches away.

How much do astigmatism glasses cost? ›

How our top picks compare
PriceGlasses and Contacts?
EyeBuyDirectframes range from under $10 to over $200glasses only
Eyeconicaround $100 to over $300both
GlassesUSAunder $30 to over $350both
Warby Parker$95 to over $375both
Jul 27, 2022

Do blue light glasses help with astigmatism? ›

Blue light blocking lenses

In fact, excessive screen time can even cause digital eye strain, particularly for those with uncorrected astigmatism. Fortunately, blue light blocking lenses can alleviate this discomfort, and make working on your laptop or texting on your phone much more enjoyable.

Do astigmatism glasses take longer to adjust to? ›

People with astigmatism take a few days, and up to two weeks to adjust to new glasses, which is the same amount of time as it takes for people without astigmatism.

How does an optometrist measure astigmatism? ›

The autorefraction or the subjective refraction—based on the patient's response—that are done at the beginning of an eye exam is one way to measure astigmatism. The amount of astigmatism caused by the cornea is measured in the clinic by a diagnostic instrument called a keratometer.

What shows astigmatism in eye prescription? ›

Astigmatism –The second number in your prescription identifies what degree of astigmatism you have i.e. how well or poorly your eye focuses light onto the retina. The number can be written either with a (+ sign) or a (- sign).

How do you determine astigmatism from a prescription? ›

Other terms on your prescription:

Cylinder (CYL): Indicates the amount of lens power for astigmatism. If nothing appears in this column you do not have astigmatism. The minus sign is for nearsighted astigmatism and a plus sign for farsighted astigmatism. Axis: Indicates the direction of astigmatism.

How do you know if you have bad astigmatism? ›

Between . 75 and 2 diopters is considered mild astigmatism. Between 2 and 4 diopters is moderate astigmatism, and 4 or more diopters is considered significant or “bad” astigmatism. Generally, eyes with 1.5 diopters of astigmatism or more require correction.

How long does it take for glasses to correct astigmatism? ›

If you have severe astigmatism, it might take a week or so. Start by wearing the glasses first thing in the morning, for a few hours at a time, and adjusting slowly. If your vision doesn't get better, ask your doctor to check your prescription. Contact lenses can also help, but you'll need a special pair.

How often should you get your eyes checked if you have astigmatism? ›

Kids: A pediatrician should check your child's eyes at every well-child visit until they're old enough to start school, and then every one to two years. Adults younger than 40: Every five to 10 years. Adults between 40 and 54: Every two to four years. Adults older than 55: Every one to three years.

Is astigmatism single vision or progressive? ›

Is astigmatism single vision? Astigmatism is not single vision. It is a common condition describing the uneven curvature of your cornea resulting in a refractive defect causing visual blur. Astigmatism is prevalent whether you need single vision or multifocal lenses.

What is considered high astigmatism? ›

Moderate Astigmatism 1.00 to 2.00 diopters. High Astigmatism 2.00 to 4.00 diopters. Extreme Astigmatism > 4.00 diopters.

What problems can astigmatism cause? ›

6 Problems That Are Linked to Astigmatism
  • Blurred vision. Blurry vision is a common symptom of astigmatism, and it happens with farsightedness (hyperopia) and nearsightedness (myopia) too. ...
  • Eyestrain. ...
  • Headaches. ...
  • Poor night vision. ...
  • Amblyopia ('lazy eye') ...
  • Keratoconus.


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