If you have been diagnosed with an advance case of astigmatism, you may have been told in the past that you are not a good candidate for contact lenses. Fortunately, changes in technology have now made this not to be true. There are options on the market that will allow you to not only successfully wear contact lenses, but to do so comfortably. Understanding the type of astigmatism you suffer from, and the options that are available, is the first step to freeing you from your glasses.
What Is Astigmatism?
According to the American Optometric Association, most people are affected with some degree of astigmatism or refractive errors in how your eyes processes light. It is primarily caused by your cornea being shaped more oblong like a football than round like a basketball, which affects the curvature of the meridian in your eye. It may also be caused by natural changes to the shape of your lens within your eye that are often seen with age, corneal scarring, or scattering within your crystalline lens. While mild cases may go unnoticed, other cases may result in your vision blurring when you are looking up close or when you are looking far away.
Astigmatism can be divided into three main types. They are:
- Myopic astigmatism - This is most commonly referred to as being nearsighted and will cause you to have difficulty seeing things that are in a distance, but you are able to read or see small details well up close. It is caused when light rays come into focus in front of your retina
- Hyperopic astigmatism - This is referred to as being farsighted. While you may be able to drive and see things far away without any difficulty, you may have trouble reading or seeing things up close. This is caused when the light rays come into focus behind the retina or over a larger area of the retina.
- Mixed astigmatism - or when one eye is focusing myopically and the other is focusing hyperopically
It can also be classified as either:
- Regular - This is when your meridians are perpendicular to each other and approximately 90 degrees apart.
- Irregular - This is when your meridians are not perpendicular.
What Are My Contact Lens Options?
There are many different styles and options on the contact lens market that are designed to address and correct all types of vision problems. When you are shopping for contact lenses that are especially designed to address your astigmatism, you are probably looking for one of two different types of lenses.
Rigid gas permeable contacts - These are slightly rigid or silicone based lenses that are designed to allow oxygen to reach the surface of your eye, which in turn is needed for your eyes' health. The material used to design the lenses are oxygen permeable, so air can pass directly through the lens into your eye.
Because of the changes in the available materials for the construction of rigid gas permeable contact lenses, they are now thinner, fit closer to the actual eye, and are more comfortable than the hard contacts that many previous wearers may remember. They also offer the following benefits:
- They retain their shape and are less likely to move or shift when you blink
- They may provide sharper vision then soft lenses
- They are available for those needing bi-focal or multi-foca designs
- They can literally last for years and are more durable than soft lenses
However, due to the fact they are more rigid than soft contacts, they do still take a little longer to get use to and may be slightly less comfortable to wear.
Soft toric contacts - These are soft, flexible contracts that are specially designed to address astigmatism. They are normally constructed from hydrogel or silicone hydrogel materials, which provide them with their thinness and flexibility.
A toric contact differs from a regular spherical soft contact in that it can be created to incorporate the different powers that are needed by your meridians to specifically address your astigmatism. In addition to this, they can also properly orientate in your eye so that the correct power align with the proper meridian. Once aligned, they are created with weighted bottoms that will keep them in place.
If you are interested in these options, or other specialized options that your optometrist has access to, schedule an appointment to be seen. Your optometrist will be able to examine your eyes and help you to choose the eye contacts option that will work best for you.