Do you have a “stigmatism”? This common eye condition has a confusing name. You might say you have a “stigma” or “stigmata” in your eye, but the real term is astigmatism.

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What is astigmatism?

Astigmatism is a condition that affects how light reaches your retina. (The retina is the tissue at the back of the eye where images form and travel to the brain.) Conditions that affect how light reaches the retina are called “refractive errors.” That’s because light bends, or refracts, as it passes through the clear outer covering of the eye (cornea) and focusing part of your eye (lens).

Astigmatism is common. About 25 percent of adults aged 50-59 have it, and 50 percent of adults over 60.

What causes astigmatism?

Astigmatism happens when the cornea or lens has an irregular shape. This makes light rays strike the retina at different points, instead of one point.

Researchers don’t yet know exactly how the irregular shape happens, but genetics and possibly development are involved. Some people develop astigmatism after an eye disease, injury or surgery.

What are the symptoms of astigmatism?

Astigmatism symptoms can include:

  • Blurry vision
  • Distorted vision (things look wavy or “off”)
  • Discomfort with reading, on a computer or in print
  • Eye strain or headaches

You might notice that you squint to see better or don’t read much because of discomfort.


Could my child have astigmatism?

Yes. Children who have astigmatism might not realize they have symptoms. For example, blurry vision might seem normal to a child who has never had clear vision.

Vision problems can cause long-term problems with school and other activities, so it’s important to have your child’s eyes examined regularly.

Is there a test for astigmatism?

An eye doctor can tell if you have astigmatism. If you have any of the symptoms above, a general eye exam can help diagnose astigmatism and choose the right treatment to correct it.

Think you have astigmatism? Make an appointment

If you haven’t had your recommended eye exam or have astigmatism symptoms or other eye concerns, it’s easy to request an appointment online or call Oregon Eye Specialists at 503-935-5580. We’re always welcoming new patients of all ages.

Read more on R. Hugh Brumley, O.D.

About the Expert

Dr. Hugh Brumley practices general optometry, specializing in contact lens fittings and management of patients who have had cataract surgery and laser vision correction. Dr. Brumley attended Oklahoma State University before moving to Oregon and earning a B.S. in health sciences and a doctor of optometry degree from Pacific University College of Optometry. He joined Oregon Eye Specialists in 1999 after 16 years in private practice. Learn more about Dr. Hugh Brumley »
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