Astigmatism refers to an abnormal curvature of the cornea, or in the shape of the eyes. The cornea is the transparent dome which covers the pupil and iris in the eye. In normal eyes, both the cornea and lens are smooth and equally curved in every direction, which makes it easy to focus light rays sharply unto the retina located at the back of the eye. Where the cornea or lens are not smooth or curved evenly, the light rays will not be refracted in a proper manner. This occurrence is referred to as a refractive error.
A condition where the cornea has an irregular shape is referred to as corneal astigmatism. If the lens is shaped in an irregular manner, the condition is referred to as lenticular astigmatism. The outcome of the two conditions is that both far and near objects appear blurry and distorted. Astigmatism may be present from birth, in which case, there may be other associated refractive imperfections, such as myopia, or hyperopia (farsightedness).
Adults with this condition will be able to tell if their vision is negatively impacted, but young children may not easily understand if they have this condition, which is why it is necessary to have regular eye examinations. Undetected astigmatism may hinder a child’s ability to competently perform everyday activities, and should be addressed as early as possible.