Astigmatism: From Blurry to Brighter World

By Dr Timothy Chifamba

Cropped shot of a beautiful young woman putting in her contact lenses at home

Ayanda looked down the microscope’s eyepiece struggling as she could only see an orange-coloured blur. She tried to fiddle around with the adjustments hoping to get a clearer image to no avail. Her classmates asked if she had got to see the slide. Deep inside her heart, she knew she had not seen much and yet she nodded. Was everything okay with her? She had never had a problem seeing things from near or from a distance, or so she thought. She struggled and asked herself if she was normal or if she there was something wrong. No, it cannot possibly be that I need to see a doctor. She shared how she felt with her best friend; after much persuasion, she decided to see an optometrist.

“You have a case of moderate astigmatism,” the optometrist said. The word astigmatism kept echoing in her head – over and over again. Time froze as the optometrist continued to discuss what the condition was and what her options were. Suddenly, as she snapped back into reality, she heard the eye doctor ask if she had any questions. She replied, “no,” in a mumble.

Many individuals grow up without ever having the opportunity to have an eye examination. From a child’s young age, parents assume that their vision is just right. This assumption is often based on the premise that both parents have seemingly been able to go through life without the need for a prescription for eyeglasses or eye surgery. How could their child possibly need to see an eye specialist? The academic performance of the child may suffer. They may hate certain sports and games because of their limitation. Severe unexplained headaches occur, their mood is affected; we attribute this to adolescence.

Many eye conditions require the attention of an eye specialist, but in this article, we will go over astigmatism. A little knowledge of the anatomy of the eye is necessary. The outermost layer of the eye has a clear surface that refracts (bends) light as it enters the eye. This surface is called the cornea. After light passes through the cornea, it is refracted by the lens once again. The lens is a clear structure found inside the eye; it allows one to focus their sight on a particular object.

Astigmatism is caused by an imperfectly shaped curvature of the cornea or lens. The eye fails to focus light evenly on the retina (back post part of the eye where images are formed). As a result, the individual seeing blurry images regardless of the distance from the object. It can be severe, moderate or subtle. Some individuals are born with astigmatism; others develop it following trauma to the eye from an accident, disease or surgery. Contrary to the beliefs commonly held by some, it is not the result of using too much television, computer or reading from a young age.

The world seemed brighter and crispier as Ayanda walked out of the doctor’s office with her new pair of glasses. She went on to graduate from high school and proceed to become a microbiologist. If you suspect that you or your friend or family may have astigmatism or another eye problem, please encourage them to get attention soonest from an optometrist or ophthalmologist. It could make a whole world of difference to their life.

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