“I’ve been told I can’t wear contacts because I have astigmatism” is like nails on a chalkboard to my ears. Astigmatism is not a visual death sentence, but merely a challenge that CAN be successfully treated with modern contact lens technology.
Astigmatism traditionally has been described as meaning the eye is more oval or egg-shaped than basketball shaped. At Clearview Eye Care, we use a corneal topographer to visually map out that astigmatism in our contact lens patients (Click here to see our previous blog on topography). If you look at the following topography scans of two different corneas, you can see a color map in which the blue end of the scale represents flatter surface and the red end of the scale represents steeper surface.
The scan on the top is pretty even in color across the cornea. This patient really has no astigmatism. However, the patient on the bottom has significant astigmatism, as you can see a “figure 8” type pattern of steeping from top to bottom surrounded by much flatter areas.
So how do we treat this astigmatism or irregular surface curvature? We need to find a contact lens whose own shape mirrors or matches the shape of the cornea in the topography reading. That’s the first step. The second part of a successful astigmatism contact lens is stability. If the shape of the contact lens matches up with the shape of the cornea, but the lens tends to rotate off the steepened area, vision will be compromised.
But modern lens technology has improved significantly in both these respects. We now have multiple options in contact lenses that allow us to match the shape of the astigmatism, while reducing rotation and thus provide clear vision. In addition, lens material improvements have also allowed us to deliver this great vision along with more oxygen and more moisture which results in better comfort.
While years ago, astigmatism may have crushed the contact-lens-wearing dreams of many, modern lens technology makes that no longer the case. If you’ve been told that you have astigmatism, now may be the time to look into contact lenses!
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