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You may or may not already know that astigmatism is one of the most common vision problems in the world, but did you know that it’s actually also one of the most misunderstood? Do you know what astigmatism is, along with what causes it, and how it’s treated?

Much like nearsightedness (myopia) and farsightedness (hyperopia), astigmatism is not a disease of the eye. Rather, it’s a refractive error in your lens that you are born with and that is usually treated with glasses, contact lenses, or surgery. Symptoms include blurred or distorted vision, eyestrain, and or headaches (especially after attempting to focus for some time). People with astigmatisms will also commonly squint to try to focus on text or other objects that they have to maintain focus on for more than a few seconds.


Astigmatism occurs when your cornea is not spherical, but instead has an irregular curvature. With a normal eye (with no astigmatism), the curvature over the cornea is uniform, and the eye is able to evenly and equally focus all light that enters. However, with astigmatism, the cornea is curved more in one direction than another, and the eye effectively has one focal point in the vertical plane and another focal point in the horizontal plane, per their respective curvatures.

We can define different types of astigmatisms based on how they affect your vision. For example, in the case of a myopic astigmatism, one or both curvatures are nearsighted, whereas in a hyperopic astigmatism, one or both curvatures are farsighted. A mixed astigmatism occurs when one curvature is nearsighted and the other is farsighted.


You may have astigmatism in one or both eyes if:

  • You have more trouble focusing with one eye than with the other at close or near distances.
  • You get headaches or feel significant eyestrain or fatigue when you try to read (especially on a computer screen) for more than a few minutes at a time.
  • Your vision is wavy, blurred, or distorted in one or both eyes.

These symptoms may indicate astigmatism, but they may also indicate other vision problems. If you experience any or all of these, make an appointment with your eye doctor immediately for diagnosis and treatment.


Your ophthalmologist can and will test for astigmatism during a regular eye exam. Traditionally, this is done by retinoscopy by shining a light through different lenses onto your eye. This method is still used today, though it is sometimes replaced or supplemented with tests performed with automated refraction instruments.


Astigmatism can be corrected with eyeglasses or with hard or soft contact lenses. However, if you are tired of wearing glasses or contacts, most cases of astigmatism can also be treated with either LASIK or PRK surgery. These surgeries use lasers to shave away part of the cornea and reshape it into a perfect sphere, eliminating the need for glasses or contact lenses.

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  1. So the cause of astigmatism is unknown? I mean, like what makes you have astigmatism in your eyes? Is it from your habit? Or genetic cause? If it is from habit, what habit can cause astigmatism? Having a blurry vision is just trouble. I have astigmatism in both eyes, 2 D. I don’t really have a problem with my near sight, but it is a big one with my far sight. I opted glasses rather than contact lenses. If it corrected, is it possible for astigmatism to come back?

    • Hi Chrissy,

      Astigmatism is different for everyone. It can be genetic and present at birth, but can also develop later in life, or develop as a result of an eye injury or surgery. You don’t have any habits that are causing it to get worse, so no worries! Surgery is of course an option, but if your glasses are working well for you, then it may not be necessary. And no, your astigmatism shouldn’t return once it’s corrected. Refractive laser surgery is permanent. Thanks for visiting our site – we appreciate your comments!

  2. Gina says:

    I have had sports injuries to both eyes (in my 30’s), having had a detached retina in one eye and having to have the top layer of my eye removed in the other eye. I’ve been told that I have 2 astigmatisms in one eye and 3 in the other. I never had any vision problems until I hit age 50 when I started having difficulty seeing things close up and reading was especially hard so I opted for glasses. I did want to try contact lenses but have been told that I’m not a good candidate of them due to the multiple astigmatisms. Now that I’m 60+ I would really like to shed the glasses. Have there been vast improvements in contact lenses that would allow me to use them?

    • Hi Gina,

      Thanks for posting. We’re interested to hear what reasons you were given for not being a good candidate for contact lenses. Was it just simply because you had astigmatisms, or were any other reasons given? Contacts have improved over time, but it’s hard to know what kind would be best for you without having ever seen your eyes. We’d be happy to consult with you to review your options, but we’d need to see you in the office before we could make any specific recommendations. Please feel free to call our office anytime – we would love to meet you!

  3. Sherry Cohen says:

    Almost 13 years ago I had LASIK in my left eye, my dominant but visually weaker eye. My right eye has always been only slightly myopic. Although I was in my late 40s at the time, the well-known NY doctor did mention that I could later have a problem when I needed cataract surgery. Fast forward to May 2017. A nationally ranked doctor at the Harkness Institute did the cataract surgery on my left eye. Instead of it getting better, my eyesight regressed AND I see not halos, but starbursts! When I wear contact lenses or glasses (which I shouldn’t have to to see distances), the starbursts are clearer and sharper. I spoke to four ophthalmologists and the last one said that the surgeon did not align the astigmatism in the cornea with the astigmatism in the eye. Is that possible? I thought the LASIK would fix the curve of the cornea. BTW, I did not have astigmatism before the LASIK surgery. Last week’s article in The New York Times made me more worried. I NEVER heard of someone seeing worse after cataract surgery than before. And, yes, they all knew I had LASIK previously. In retrospect, I should not have been treated as a regular cataract patient. Wearing glasses irritate the psoriasis on my face (really) and I can’t stand to see the frames. I am bitter and angry.

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