If you have astigmatism, you may sometimes feel like the one man out—having greater visual struggles and fewer realistic options for correcting them than those around you. But in reality, technology has come a long way in recent years and individuals with astigmatism have excellent choices that no longer require meaningful compromises in visual clarity.
As with any condition, the first step in finding a solution for astigmatism lies in recognizing the problem. You might be surprised to learn that lots of people are walking around with astigmatism and don’t even know it. In fact, about 95% of all eyes have some level of detectable astigmatism.
Whether you’ve been diagnosed with astigmatism or wonder if you have it, here are five questions you can ask your doctor that will help you uncover a practical solution that’s specific to your individual needs.
1. How Much Astigmatism Do I Have?
If you aren’t experiencing crisp vision, it may be due to a small amount of astigmatism. Most doctors consider more than one diopter (1.00D) of astigmatism clinically significant and will offer special forms of vision correction that correct for this. But, with lower levels of astigmatism, doctors may wait for you to tell them if you’re not completely satisfied with the clarity of your vision.
Everyone has a different threshold and millions of people are bothered by as little as a half diopter (0.50D) of astigmatism. In fact, some studies show that half of the population has at least 0.50D of astigmatism.
No matter how high or low your level of astigmatism may be, there are custom vision correction options that can help you enjoy the quality of vision you deserve, so be sure to ask questions and speak up if your vision isn’t picture perfect.
2. Can I Wear Regular Contact Lenses?
An astigmatic cornea has both a steeper curve and a flatter one, causing light rays to focus on two points in the back of your eye, rather than on just one. Regular, spherical contact lenses have the same prescription power all around the lens; but if you have astigmatism, you need more than one prescription power in order to properly focus light rays to the same point. This second part of the prescription is called the "cylinder" lens power.
If you have very low cylinder, you might be able to get by with a standard, off-the-shelf contact lens. However, if the visual compromise is too great, alert your doctor so you can be fit with a lens that takes both prescriptions into account.
3. Are GP Lenses Right For Me?
For a very long time, gas permeable (GP) lenses—also known as “hard” lenses—were the only contact lens option available for people with clinically relevant astigmatism. In fact, even after soft lenses were introduced for astigmatism, many doctors and patients preferred these rigid GP designs because of the outstanding optics they provide.
When GP lenses are placed on the astigmatic cornea, the space between the back of the GP lens and the surface of the cornea is filled up by tears. This layer of tears, in effect, temporarily corrects the astigmatism so that only one lens power is needed. While this is optimal from an optics perspective, some patients are not thrilled with GPs from a practical perspective.
Rigid lenses have a reputation for being less comfortable and user-friendly, compared to soft lenses; and they have a tendency to dislodge during activity. In addition, some people experience irritation, since debris often collects under GP lenses.
4. Are Soft Contact Lenses Right For Me?
In contrast to GP lenses, soft contact lenses are generally considered pretty comfortable, they don’t often fall out, and they’re easy to get used to wearing. But, many complain that what soft lenses make up for in comfort, they tend give up in visual quality.
Since most people with astigmatism cannot wear standard soft contact lenses because they need a lens with multiple powers, they need to select what’s called a toric lens design. Toric lenses are made from the same material as soft contacts but are designed differently.
Toric lenses have two powers in them—one for astigmatism, and the other for either nearsightedness or farsightedness. In order for this to work, the two prescriptions must sit exactly where you need them to, without shifting position. This is accomplished by adding extra weight to the bottom portion of the toric lens to keep it from rotating on the eye. While this strategy is partially effective, it’s far from 100%. As a result, most toric lens wearers still experience some lens rotation that results in temporarily blurred vision, which can be a real problem—especially when you’re driving.
If you’re wearing a soft toric lens and your vision sometimes gets blurry, be sure to alert your doctor so you can be fit with a lens that’s more stable.
5. Can I Wear Special Contact Lenses to Correct My Astigmatism?
Recently, a unique type of contact lens was created. These hybrid lenses combine the best of both hard and soft designs. The SynergEyes Duette hybrid lens combines a GP center (so that the optics are crisp and consistent) with a soft lens skirt (so that you also can enjoy the benefits of comfort and ease-of-wear). It’s literally like two lenses in one.
Each Duette lens is custom made for your eye and can correct nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism and presbyopia. Plus, since the center of the lens is a GP, it doesn’t matter how much the lens rotates, which means your vision will stay consistently clear and won’t go in and out of focus.
Duette lenses do take some getting used to and you’ll need to learn how to put them in and take them out. But people who spend a week or two to master this generally appreciate freedom from a lifetime of bigger compromises with other lens designs.
About SynergEyes, Inc.
SynergEyes is the only advanced-technology and OD-led contact lens company focused exclusively on the leading independent eye care professional, providing a complete continuum of specialty contact lens products. Brands include Duette® hybrid lenses for astigmatism and presbyopia, and UltraHealth® hybrid lenses for irregular corneas and SynergEyes VSTM scleral lenses for more challenging corneal conditions. The SynergEyes portfolio also includes advanced technology corneal RGP designs as well as legendary hybrid designs in ClearKone®, SynergEyes® A, MF, KC, and PS. More information is available at SynergEyes.com.
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