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  • Roya Habibi

A Stigma What?

Astigmatism = uh-STIG-muh-tiz-um

I always say to my patients that the person who first named this condition was being mean. The word “astigmatism” often mistakenly morphs into “a stigma” and many people think that’s what it is. A stigma is a mark of shame, but an astigmatism is far from that! Let’s break it down.

Now to truly understand what having an astigmatism means, you need to refer back to the basics. My first post reviewed general vision principles (or refractive errors). But here is a reminder diagram of the eye in its perfect form.

As a review, the eyeball is a fixed length and as light bends into the eye and through its curved front surface it is directed onto the retina.

Enter the issue of "astigmatism." Astigmatism occurs when light isn’t perfectly bent into the eye… in all directions. Our cute flat diagram (above) is only showing light in one direction, but light enters in many directions.

Depending on how perfectly round the front shape of the eye is determines how well light (from all angles) bends to the same point on the retina. Around now is when most people start getting lost. Here’s a visual example to help you understand:

Take the common mirror. Yes, the one in your bathroom. There are normal mirrors, but there are also magnifying mirrors, and even the ones that say “objects in the mirror are closer than they appear.” But don’t forget about the ones at circuses that make you look tall or fat. These mirrors cause these illusions due to bending the mirror in one direction more than the other. This warped effect is also known as astigmatism.

So astigmatism is created due to imperfection in the shape of the eye causing different amounts of defocus on the retina. People who have astigmatism, or an astigmatic refractive error, typically have blurry vision at both far and near scenarios.

astigmatism, eye, blurry vision
This represents an eye with astigmatism. Red lines are entering horizontally. Green Lines are entering vertically.

When I talk to my patients, the only “exciting” thing about astigmatism is that now the glasses or contact lens prescription will be a little more complicated. Instead of 1 set of numbers for the eyes, there are 3 for the proper prescription. With a precise prescription including astigmatism power, we are able to correct all light bending into the eye.

To reiterate my first point, people with astigmatism don’t have a stigma. In fact, 1 in 3 people have some amount of astigmatism. Super common! In the past it may have been a bigger issue (or shame), but with modern technology, most people with astigmatism have great options for glasses and contact lenses. There are even several brands of daily disposable contact lenses that work for people with astigmatism.

Want to learn more about all the options of contact lenses available? Check back in the future to learn!

dr roya habibi.jpg

Hi, thanks for stopping by!

I'm Dr. Roya, a globally recognized Optometrist who specializes in dry eye, eye comfort, and comprehensive eye care.


I'm also the Owner and Managing Doctor and of Ojos Del Mar, a concierge eye care clinic in Tamarindo, Costa Rica.

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