A stigmatism or astigmatism?

How many times have you explained to someone that you have astigmatism, and they reply, “What is that?” So you begin to explain, but then realize you’re not sure what it means (even though you’ve looked it up before, several times) and to top it off, you’re not even sure if you’re saying it right? Well, let’s clear this whole thing up right now.

I have a stigmatism.

No, you don’t. You have astigmatism. Well, I can’t confirm that you have it because I’m not a medical professional. What I’m telling you is that the word is astigmatism. It’s a common misunderstanding to think that the word begins with an s, therefore speaking it as stigmatism. But it actually begins with an a. That was me a few years ago, so don’t make fun. Okay, it was a few months ago. In our defense, the correct word is stupid. It’s difficult to work the word into a sentence. Try it. It sounds like you’re stuttering or inserting two indefinite articles in front of a noun, “I have an a-stigmatism.” In fact, there should be no definite or indefinite articles (like “a,” “an” or “the”) inserted in front of this super strange word.

What is astigmatism?

Okay, so what does it mean? Simply put, it means that your eye isn’t completely round. It’s rather common since most of us don’t have perfectly round eyes. With astigmatism, the eye is shaped more like a football than a basketball. This is an irregular curvature of the cornea. The perfectly round eye receives light, bends it evenly, which in turn produces clear vision. When the eye isn’t perfectly round, the light coming into it will bend (refract) more in one direction than another. This can cause blurred or wavy vision. That’s my life right now. I’m wondering how bad I’m going to let this get before going back to the eye doctor.

What are the causes and symptoms?

It’s one of those great mysteries. The cause is unknown, and most people are born with it. According to WebMD, astigmatism might occur after an eye injury, disease, or surgery. There’s basically one symptom—blurred vision. For many, astigmatism is slight enough that their vision isn’t really affected. However, astigmatism frequently occurs with other vision conditions like myopia (nearsightedness) and hyperopia (farsightedness). This is where the diagnosis becomes more complicated. That’s what happened to me. I am extremely nearsighted, and I have been since the age of nine. However, during my last 2-3 eye exams, I found it difficult to read the eye chart even with my contact lenses. But with a few blinks, I would eventually achieve a fleeting second of focus and rattle off the tiny line of letters. Now, I did inform the eye doctor that it was a struggle to achieve focus, but he didn’t seem concerned. Take it from me when I suggest that you don’t go to the Save-a-Lot Eye Center. I’m making this name up, or at least I hope it’s made up.

How is astigmatism treated?

I thought you’d never ask. It turns out that it can be corrected. Again, something else I was unaware of until recently. There are corrective lenses for this eye defect, in both glasses and contacts. It’s a bit mysterious to me (because it’s science), but the contact lenses (called toric lenses) are made to bend light more in one direction than the other. Refractive surgery is also an option, which is designed to change the shape of the cornea. This surgery is only possible if you do not have retinal problems or corneal scars.

Astigmatism is a hopeless word, not a hopeless condition.

What have we learned today? Astigmatism is a bizarre word, with seemingly arbitrary rules of grammar. You may just want to explain to people that your eye is not perfectly round, which can be an obstacle to clear vision. We have learned that the eye defect is common, and the cause is relatively unknown. I hope you have also learned to ask your eye doctor more questions when you are experiencing blurry vision. Knowledge is freedom. Get all of the facts so that you can weigh your options with corrective lenses. Oh, and did I forget to mention that corrective lenses for astigmatism are more expensive than regular corrective lenses? Yeah, they’re more expensive.

astigmatism |əˈstigməˌtizəm|
a defect in the eye or in a lens caused by a deviation from spherical curvature, which results in distorted images, as light rays are prevented from meeting at a common focus.

toric |ˈtôrik|
adjective (Geometry)
having the form of a torus
• (of a contact lens) having two different curves instead of one, used to correct both astigmatism and nearsightedness or farsightedness.

Sources used for this article include the Apple dictionary, WebMD.com, aoa.org, and a rad coffee cup image from zazzle.com.