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What is astigmatism?

Astigmatism, pronounced ‘ah-stig-mah-tism’, is a type of refractive error, like longsightedness (hypermetropia) and short sightedness (myopia). Refractive error means that the light coming into the eye cannot be properly focused because of the size or shape of the eye. This causes your child to see a blurry image.

Diagram of normal eye, which can create a clear image

Normal eye which creates a clear image

Diagram of astigmatic eye, which creates a blurry image

Astigmatic eye, which creates a blurry image

Astigmatism causes blurred vision when trying to see at all distances. It can come with long or short sightedness, or on its own.

What causes astigmatism?

Astigmatism is caused by the front of the eye being rugby ball shaped rather than round like a football. It is a very common eye condition and in most cases we do not know why it has happened.

In some cases it is caused by injury or external pressure on the eyes surface such as a drooping eye lid.

How is astigmatism treated?

If there is enough astigmatism to affect the level of your child’s vision, then glasses will be prescribed to correct the blurring and improve their vision. Once your child is old enough, contact lenses can be considered instead of glasses. Laser treatment is also an option for adults.

Will my child need glasses forever?

For some people, glasses will be used short term, so their vision can develop as best as possible during childhood. Others may need glasses or contact lenses long term.

The size and shape of the eye will change with age, for some children this means the amount of astigmatism will reduce, and for others it will increase over time. There is nothing you can do to change the way this growth occurs.

What if my child does not wear their glasses?

Children’s vision develops up until the age of around 7 to 8 years of age. If glasses are not worn during this time the brain will not learn to see clearly and vision will never develop to its best level.

Please feel free to discuss this further with your orthoptist or optometrist.

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Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

Resource number: EYE65

Resource Type: Article

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If you have any questions, please feel free to contact the eye department on 0114 27 17468.


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S10 2TH

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