Astigmatism is a distortion that affects both reading and distance vision. It is usually due to the front surface of the eye (cornea) being irregularly shaped. This can sometimes be inherited but can also happen as a normal characteristic of growth.
An astigmatism lens is shaped more like a rugby ball than a soccer ball. This tends to distort light more along one direction than the other. The direction (or axis) of astigmatism varies for each person. Lines running in one direction (for example vertical) may appear to be clear while lines running opposite (eg horizontal) may appear blurred. The axis of astigmatism can be vertical, horizontal or somewhere in between.
If you have astigmatism you may experience eye strain and tired eyes, particularly with concentrated tasks such as driving, computer use and reading. Glasses or contact lenses can correct astigmatism but are often only required for those concentrated visual tasks and may not be a full time requirement.
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