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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.

Local optometrist

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 to make sure the lenses are positioned correctly for your eyes.

You can search for eye doctors in your location through the American Optometric Association.

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.

Online

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.

Best for giving back

EyeBuyDirect

St Michel frames
  • Price: frame options range from under $10 to over $200

If you like to give back with your purchases, you’ll love that EyeBuyDirect has a Buy 1 Give 1 program where a frame is donated to another country every time a pair is purchased on the website.

EyeBuyDirect has a variety of frames and styles. It also sells reading and sunglasses, including Oakley and Ray-Ban frames. However, there are no contact options.

You can use a filter to search through frames on the website or take a quiz to find the perfect pair. You can also try the glasses on virtually before purchasing to see what they would look like.

Pros

  • includes frames for men, women, and children
  • offers prescription and nonprescription sunglasses, reading glasses, and polarized glasses
  • buy one, give one program allows consumers to give back with their purchase
  • can try on frames virtually before purchasing

Cons

  • no brick and mortar store locations
  • does not sell contacts

Best for using vision insurance

Eyeconic

Ray-Ban frames
  • Price: around $100 to over $300

For those with VSP, MetLife, and Cigna Vision insurance, Eyeconic is set up to make using your insurance easy. (A “use my insurance” link is even on the main bar of the home page!) Additionally, the site says most customers with insurance pay less than $25 for the copay and $35 for their eyewear.

If you don’t already have insurance, the website has links to help you learn more about signing up for it. It also has directions if you wish to use your HSA/FSA funds toward eyewear.

In addition to insurance help, the website can help you locate an in-network eye doctor and try on frames virtually. The site also sells contacts for those who prefer those to glasses.

Pros

  • sells contacts in addition to glasses
  • accepts VSP, MetLife, and Cigna Vision insurance
  • can try on frames virtually before buying

Cons

  • there are cheaper frames on other sites
  • doesn’t offer online vision exams

Best for designer frames

GlassesUSA

Amelia E. Nettle frames
  • Price: under $30 to over $350

GlassesUSA has a range of designer frames that includes brands from Oakley to Prada. It also sells a selection of contact lens brands. To help offset the higher price of designer frames, the site also has a section just for coupons and discounts. It also offers discounts in the form of a “heroes reward,” student discount, and referral program.

While the site does offer a virtual try-on option, there aren’t in-person stores or a mail program to test out the frames before purchasing. It also doesn’t offer eye exams, so you’ll need to have a valid prescription already in hand.

Pros

  • wide range of designer glasses
  • sells contacts in addition to glasses
  • lots of discount options in addition to sales and coupons, including “heroes reward,” student discount, referral program, and affiliate program

Cons

  • doesn’t offer eye exams
  • there aren’t in-person stores to try the glasses on

Best for vision exams

Warby Parker

Durand frames
  • Price: $95 to over $375

While many online sellers don’t have a brick-and-mortar location, Warby Parker has stores in many states. At these locations, you can get an in-person eye exam, but there’s also an option to renew your prescription from home with the Virtual Vision Test.

In addition to these options for getting an eyewear prescription, Warby Parker offers a Home Try-On program where five frames can be sent to you. You can also use the Warby Parker app’s Virtual Try-On option to see what they might look like. You may be disappointed to discover that there aren’t children’s frames or designer frames available, though.

Pros

  • brick and mortar locations in many states
  • Virtual Vision Test app allows for prescription renewal from home
  • home try-on program sends five frames to you for free

Cons

  • no children’s frames available online
  • there are cheaper options available on some of the other sites

PriceGlasses and Contacts?ProsCons
EyeBuyDirectframes range from under $10 to over $200glasses only• includes frames for men, women, and children
• buy one, give one program allows consumers to give back with their purchase
• can try on frames virtually before purchasing
• no brick and mortar store locations
• does not also sell contacts
Eyeconicaround $100 to over $300both• sells contacts in addition to glasses
• accepts VSP, MetLife, and Cigna Vision insurance
• can try on frames virtually before buying
• there are cheaper frames on other sites
• doesn’t offer online vision exams
GlassesUSAunder $30 to over $350both• wide range of designer glasses
• sells contacts in addition to glasses
• lots of discount options in addition to sales and coupons, including “heroes reward,” student discount, referral program, and affiliate program
• doesn’t offer eye exams
• there aren’t in-person stores to try the glasses on
Warby Parker$95 to over $375both • brick and mortar locations in many states
• Virtual Vision Test app allows for prescription renewal from home
• Home Try-On program sends five frames to you
• no children’s frames online
• there are cheaper options available on the other sites

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 or progressive.

Lens material

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 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.

Questions to ask about astigmatism

  • How strong is my astigmatism? Can you explain my prescription numbers to me? Most optometrists will be more than happy to take a few minutes to explain your prescription.
  • Are there any other potential causes for my symptoms?
  • Is there any chance my astigmatism is temporary?
  • Are there any restrictions that I should follow? (i.e., wearing glasses while driving, avoiding driving at night, etc.)
  • How soon should I have my eyes tested again?
  • Can I use contact lenses? Depending on your astigmatism, you may actually see the world more clearly with contact lenses than glasses. An important potential follow-up question is what brands and types of contacts are appropriate for your eyes.
  • Am I a good candidate for vision surgery or orthokeratology? Based on your doctor’s answer and your personal preferences, you might decide on a course of action besides glasses. You may also want to follow up this question by asking what your insurance will cover.
  • Should I be worried about developing a lazy eye or any other conditions in the future?

When should you wear glasses for astigmatism?

If your astigmatism is causing things to appear blurry, you’re straining your eyes to see, you have double vision, or you’re struggling to see at night, you’ll probably need glasses. An eye doctor can provide you with a prescription for your astigmatism and answer any questions about when you should wear your new glasses.

Do reading glasses correct astigmatism?

Over-the-counter reading glasses won’t correct astigmatism. However, a pair of prescription glasses or contacts can. If you’re having trouble reading or driving due to astigmatism, your best bet is to see your eye doctor for a prescription that precisely matches your eyes.

Can astigmatism go away naturally?

It’s almost impossible for astigmatism to go away naturally. Some individuals believe that eye exercises can help, but the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) says it is not an effective way to treat astigmatism. According to the AAO only glasses, contacts, and surgery can correct for refraction issues.

What can make astigmatism worse?

Research is still ongoing into what causes someone’s astigmatism to worsen. Age may impact astigmatism as eyelids lose muscle tone and put less pressure on the eye. Health conditions may also impact the curvature of the eye and someone’s astigmatism. Even rubbing your eyes has been associated with irregular astigmatism.

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.