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Astigmatism is a common vision problem caused by an irregular cornea or an irregularly shaped part of your eye (its lens). This irregularity changes the way light passes through or is refracted by the retina. Frequently, astigmatism is combined with someone being farsighted or nearsighted.
Not everyone who has astigmatism will need glasses. It’s possible to have slight astigmatism and still have 20/20 vision. Just remember that your eyes, like the rest of the body, change over time, so regular eye checkups are important.
Also, in some cases, corrective surgery or orthokeratology (a treatment that uses hard, rigid contact lenses to correct the irregular curvature of the cornea temporarily) can be used to correct vision instead of glasses.
Whether you need glasses really comes down to how clearly you can see and how strong your astigmatism is.
You’ll need glasses for your astigmatism if your vision is blurry or you have eyestrain. You’ll also need glasses to address your astigmatism if you have:
- Double vision
- Trouble seeing at night
- Headaches due to eyestrain
- Frequent squinting
Basically, if your astigmatism is impacting your daily life, you’ll probably need glasses.
It’s best to visit an eye doctor. An ophthalmologist or optometrist can check your eye health and perform a vision test to determine if you would benefit from glasses and will provide the prescription for your eyes.
If your doctor recommends glasses for your astigmatism, there are many places you can get them.
Lots of eyeglass websites offer lenses that work for people with astigmatism. Before becoming too invested in a particular set of frames, double-check that the company can make your prescription.
For example, Liingo, an online glasses store, says it can create glasses with prescriptions between -14.00 to +6.00 sphere, and its cylinder range is -3.75 to +3.75. But the retailer also says the total power (sphere + cylinder) on the glasses can’t exceed -14.00.
For more information about what the numbers in your prescription mean, check out this article.
Other retailers with an online focus include:
If you visited the optometrist to have your astigmatism checked, chances are you can also order your glasses through them.
Though this is not always the cheapest option, it may be convenient because you can go back to your doctor to check for fit and how the lenses are positioned for your eyes.
Retail optometry locations
In many towns, there are stand-alone stores that sell glasses. There are also optometry centers in some large retail stores like Walmart. These retail locations typically offer glasses that work with a wide range of prescriptions and astigmatisms.
Not all glasses are created equal! The materials that make up the lenses, the coatings used, and even the frame shape can impact how clearly you see with your astigmatism.
Eyeglasses for astigmatism include a special cylindrical lens to compensate for how light passes through the cornea. Generally, a single-vision lens is prescribed, but in some patients over 40 years old, an eye doctor might recommend a bifocal.
Lenses come in a variety of thicknesses. In general, the higher your prescription, the thinner the lens that’s recommended. So, if you have high-level astigmatism, you’ll likely want a high index or trivex lens instead of a standard one.
Lens coatings and layers
Coatings can be put on a lens to offer additional benefits, like scratch resistance and anti-fogging. People with an astigmatism (especially those with higher prescriptions) may see better with an anti-reflective coating on their lenses to reduce glare.
And remember, astigmatism is about how light is being reflected to the retina. The more you can do to keep the lenses of your glasses clean and glare-free, the better you’ll see.
Eyeglass frames, shape, and size
How lenses fit on your face is determined by the frames. For high-level astigmatism, a flatter frame can be beneficial. This is because wraparound glasses have more curves in the front and can cause distortion if you have astigmatism.
You can take glasses to get a fit check
If you order your eyeglasses online, keep in mind that they may not perfectly fit your face. Taking them to a store to get fitted can make a difference in how well you see. Also, there may be a fee to adjust glasses if you didn’t buy them there.
Before your eye exam, your doctor may have some questions. You can expect them to ask about:
- Your family eye and overall health history
- What symptoms you have been experiencing
- How long you have been experiencing these symptoms
- When your last eye exam was
After your eye doctor completes your exam, you may want to ask a few questions to better understand their findings and the possible treatment options that exist.
If your eye doctor thinks it would benefit you to have eyeglasses, they’ll determine the best prescription during your eye exam. Once you have this prescription, you can order your glasses from local stores or online.
If you’ve noticed that your world is getting a little blurry, it’s important to make an appointment with your eye doctor. They can help rule out other health concerns and get you on track if you need corrective glasses.
Catherine Crider, CD/PCD(DONA), CLEC, CBE, JD, MEd, has worked with children for the past decade as a trained elementary and special education teacher, and finds special joy in supporting blossoming families and their infants. She enjoys educating new parents and parents-to-be about their different options as well as the current best practices in baby care. Catherine writes for various websites and teaches full-spectrum childbirth and postpartum education in several locations in California’s North Bay Area and Peninsula.