It is vital to see an optometrist to get checked and diagnosed for astigmatism as well as for other eye problems
Astigmatism is when an abnormally shaped cornea results in the light rays focusing at different points instead of directly onto the retina. This causes the vision for both near and far objects to become blurry or distorted.
Optometrist and CEO of Eyecon Optometry Network, Datuk Murphy Chan, explained while astigmatism was one of the most common refractive errors, it was generally treatable.
According to him, astigmatism involves the eyes and the brain.
“As such, I would categorise the symptoms into four categories,” said Chan.
“Firstly, there is the blurry vision and sometimes even distorted vision for both near and far objects.
“Secondly, it would tire the eyes and cause eye strain and tightness due to the vision blurriness and distortion.
“And thirdly, the brain would find the low quality and distorted images confusing, and it would likely lead to headaches.
“Finally, as the light entering the eyes is not able to focus, it would cause scattering of light.”
Impact on lifestyle and productivity
Astigmatism, although not particularly serious, affects one’s daily lifestyle and productivity.
“The blurred vision, headaches, eye strain, and the scattering of light would affect the quality of life and with approximately 60 per cent of vision quality, it would affect productivity as well.
“Typically, the effort to drive at night or during low light conditions would be extremely difficult for someone with astigmatism. What a person will experience is, the light from a light source seems to be scattering.
“Astigmatism can start from infancy. So, we usually advise that if you notice any peculiar habits or tilting of a young child’s head, as early as six months old, it is good to see an optometrist or ophthalmologist who specialises in children.
“Before the age of nine, if the vision formed at the eye and to the brain is not well-developed, the child will not have a fully-developed vision in later years. This will affect their learning process,” added Chan, who is also the organising committee president for the Asia Optometric Congress (AOC).
The AOC is actively involved in optical and eye health agendas in various countries, working within the government-to-government level.
“This January, we helped get India to pass their Optical Bill.”
AOC also conducts CSR programmes in many countries. For example, in 2019, it reached out to about 20,000 children in Indonesia, providing them with free eye examination and glasses.
Diagnosis and treatment
According to Chan, apart from the visual performance and quality of lifestyle and productivity, when astigmatism is not managed well, it would affect a person’s confidence and appearance.
“Astigmatism can be a genetic problem or caused by either injury or disease. And most people who suffer from the symptoms of astigmatism just accept it because they do not know it is a problem.”
He explained that the symptoms presented may not be astigmatism but instead be a more severe problem like glaucoma, which has almost similar symptoms.
“So, if you feel you have astigmatism, my first advice is to see an optometrist. These professionals can discern whether it is genuinely an astigmatism condition or not.
“When you see an optometrist, what they do is first identify the problem by asking you questions – your family history and symptoms. And then, they do a series of tests or investigations, whereby they check on your vision, pupil reaction, and cornea shape
“You need to be diagnosed carefully. Optometrists with appropriate instruments can diagnose you accurately on whether you have astigmatism or not.”
Contact lenses for astigmatism
Astigmatism cannot be cured and may even progress with age. But, it can be corrected using glasses with specialised lenses tailored according to one’s severity.
And now, with the latest innovations and continuous research and development (R&D) from many multinational optical and eyewear companies, specialised contact lenses for astigmatism are also available.
Chan shared that contact lenses can achieve more as they can realign the cornea and be used at night to reshape your cornea again.
There are different modalities of contact lenses for astigmatism in the market depending on preferences, such as daily or bi-weekly disposable lenses, and severity, either harder contact lenses for severe astigmatism or softer contact lenses for less severe stigmatism.
He highlighted: “Both Acuvue Moist and Acuvue Oasys contact lenses are exceptional for astigmatism correction. I recommend them to most of my patients and I’ve received positive feedback so far.
“The Acuvue Moist Astigmatism lenses, which have a long-lasting cushion of moisture, are extremely comfortable, even for first time users.
“The Acuvue Oasys Astigmatism lenses are silicon hydrogel-based lenses, which allow more oxygen to reach the cornea.”
He added that both Acuvue lenses have an eye lid stabiliser design, which minimises shifting of the lenses and allows the wearers to have better stable vision all day long. They also provide UV protection.
Get lenses from professional practitioners
Chan emphasised that contact lenses should not be bought from just anywhere. They must be prescribed only after an accurate diagnosis by a qualified optometrist.
Sharing a patient’s experience, he said: “Our practice was referred to see a 21-year-old woman, who had been wearing contact lenses since her teens and had complaints about slight blurry vision.”
Upon proper investigation and eye examination, it was found that she did not have optimum vision, especially during the second half of the day and suffered from headache.
“We then prescribed her with new contact lenses which suited her condition. After putting it on, she agreed she had better vision.
“She came back one week later, saying she could drive better and feels less tired after using the new lenses.”
“When we talk about contact lenses for astigmatism or any other eye problems, it is not just about the clarity. We, as responsible practitioners, also emphasise the confidence that you’re getting from the correct and suitable contact lenses.”
“So, please remember to go for your regular checks because what worked last year may not work this year,” Chan advised.
Eyecon Optometry Network
Eyecon Optometry are equipped with the latest eye care equipment. This enables them to provide comprehensive eye test services such as clear vision, eye pressure, and eye health.
“We believe in innovation because we believe everyone has their own style. For example, before new developments in eyewear, there was a limited choice of glasses. Today, you can customise the eyewear that you want according to your lifestyle.
“We are also involved in research and trials conducted by multinational optical and eyewear companies.
Eyecon Optometry also owns a mobile vision ambulance that provides public education on eye health and essential screening services.
The latest venture at Mahkota Specialist Melaka aims to address the rising eye problems focusing on early prevention and correction among children. — The Health