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Astigmatism is an optical defect in which vision is blurred due to the inability of the optics of the eye to focus a point object into a sharp focused image on the retina. This may be due to an irregular or toric curvature of the cornea or lens.


Types of astigmatism
Exampe of astigmatism; astigmatism treatment at Clarkson Eyecare

The two types of astigmatism are regular and irregular. Irregular astigmatism is often caused by a corneal scar or scattering in the crystalline lens, and cannot be corrected by standard spectacle lenses, but can sometimes be corrected by contact lenses. Regular astigmatism arising from either the cornea or crystalline lens can sometimes be corrected by a toric lens. A toric surface resembles a section of the surface of an American football or a doughnut where there are two regular radii, one smaller than the other one. This optical shape gives rise to regular astigmatism in the eye.

The refractive error of the astigmatic eye stems from a difference in degree of curvature refraction of the two different meridians (i.e., the eye has different focal points in different planes). For example, the image may be clearly focused on the retina in the horizontal (sagittal) plane, but not in the vertical (tangential) plane. Astigmatism causes difficulties in seeing fine detail, and in some cases vertical lines may appear to the patient to be tilted. The astigmatic optics of the human eye can often be corrected by spectacles, hard contact lenses or contact lenses that have a compensating optic or cylindrical lens or by refractive surgery.