What is Astigmatism?

It is very common for people to have an astigmatism which occurs when the eye is not perfectly circular and can cause blurry vision if it hasn’t been properly corrected.

What is Astigmatism? in Olympia

Not all eyes are perfect circles, sometimes they are more oval shaped. If a person has an irregular shape or curvature of the cornea (the clear part that covers the surface of the eye) or lens inside the eye then it results in an astigmatism which is quite common. In a round eye, or in an eye without astigmatism, the cornea and lens allow the light to focus at a single point on the retina. If there is an astigmatism, then the cornea or lens is more elliptical which causes the light either to focus before or after the retina. It is common to have astigmatism along with other vision conditions such as nearsightedness or farsightedness. Together, these vision conditions are called ‘refractive errors’ because they affect how the eyes bend or ‘refract’ incoming light. People with astigmatism tend to require a more specific prescription for glasses or contact lenses which allows light to bend properly on the shape of their eye. There is an added component of a prescription for glasses or contact lenses called the cylinder, which is customized to correct an astigmatism.

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Some people don’t notice any symptoms while others who have astigmatism could experience any of the following:

  • Blurry or distorted vision
  • Eye strain/ irritation
  • Headaches
  • Squinting 

These symptoms are not necessarily caused by astigmatism, as they could be caused by other health or vision conditions. If you notice these symptoms or experience sudden changes in your vision and find it difficult for you to perform your daily activities, please schedule an eye exam with our eye doctor in Olympia. A proper diagnosis will be provided during the eye exam.

Causes of Astigmatism

Astigmatism is generally a condition people are born with and is inherited. It can also be developed due to an eye disease, injury or surgery. Astigmatism can be caused by a degenerative eye disorder called keratoconus which is when the cornea (the clear part that covers the surface of the eye) becomes thinner and more cone-shaped.

There are two types of astigmatism, each with their own cause due to the anatomy of the eye:

  1. Corneal astigmatism - this is the most common type and it’s a result of an irregularly shaped cornea. The cornea is a clear layer which covers the surface of the eye and contributes greatly to the way we see.
  2. Lenticular astigmatism - this type is caused by an irregular lens inside of the eye. 
Causes of Astigmatism
Risk Factors

Risk Factors

Astigmatism can occur in people of all ages from children to adults. People with the following conditions may be more prone to develop astigmatism:

  • Family history of astigmatism
  • Family history of keratoconus or other corneal conditions
  • Excessive nearsightedness or farsightedness as these could affect the shape of your eye

Common Questions

No, this is a myth. One cannot develop astigmatism because they read in low light settings or because they sit close to the TV. Astigmatism is most often an inherited condition that people are born with.
Due to the fact that astigmatism is connected to the anatomy and shape of the eye, it is most often an inherited condition and it cannot be prevented. However, there are wonderful optical corrections for astigmatism. In the prescription for glasses or contact lenses, there will be an added component called a cylinder which corrects the astigmatism. There is also the option of refractive surgery which is used to correct the astigmatism in the eye, similar to how laser eye surgery corrects nearsightedness or farsightedness.
In most cases, astigmatism can be completely corrected with LASIK. LASIK can correct high levels of astigmatism, but a follow-up enhancement may be required to refine the results. When compared with other alternatives such as eyeglasses and contact lenses, LASIK for astigmatism is a superior option. Contrary to LASIK, these are short-term solutions to symptoms associated with astigmatism, such as blurry vision, eye strain, and headaches. The best way to determine whether LASIK is right for you is to discuss your options with our eye care professional. Please contact American Family Vision Clinic at (360) 491-2121.
What is Astigmatism?
Dr. Zurcher cartoon

When to See the Eye Doctor

If you are experiencing unclear vision or any symptoms of astigmatism, such as headaches, eye strain or irritation please schedule an eye exam. Your eye doctor will be able to diagnose an astigmatism or the relevant cause for these symptoms and will provide the proper treatment. Children and many adults will not notice symptoms of astigmatism so it’s very important to go for routine eye exams from a young age so that any vision or eye conditions can be detected and corrected early on. You can schedule an eye exam with our eye doctor by calling (360) 491-2121. Patients searching for advanced treatment for astigmatism visit our clinic from all over Washington, and we are proud to be a leading provider of medical eye care services for patients from Olympia, Lakewood, Tacoma, and Lacey. 


Such a nice optician. My grandson is only 4 and needs glasses. We were so sad, but he explained the issues, and we will follow up as he suggested.

Anna P.

I had such a good experience with the clinic. Very friendly staff and doctor, did not have to wait for long to be called, and was treated respectfully. Thanks, American Family.

June S.

Dr. Zurcher has gone above and beyond what any other eye doctor has ever done to figure out what is going on with my eyes. Very happy with American Family Vision.

Christine R.

Family Vision Clinic changed our lives! My daughter was frequently car sick, and she was getting headaches every day, often painful enough that they brought her to tears. We saw a string of doctors and therapists, but we made no progress. Finally, we found Dr. Levi Zurcher and his eye therapist Rain. After ten weeks of eye therapy my daughter no longer gets headaches, and she no longer gets car sick. Daily tears are a thing of the past. I really can’t say enough about this clinic. It was fascinating to watch Dr. Zurcher work. For the first time, someone who knew what they were doing was intently studying my daughter, really trying to figure out all of her eye issues, and his therapist Rain is one of the most patient and lovely people that I’ve ever had the good fortune to meet. We’re finished with eye therapy—yay!—and I have switched to American Family Vision Clinic for all of my family’s other eye health needs.

Lars Wulff

Very professional, yet kind and helpful. They do what they can to make the appointment comfortable. I was running a bit late, I made sure ti call. They were able to switch me with a patient who was already there, they treated me with respect, and helped my son have confidence by getting him the eye care he needed that day. Thank you so much! Would recommend to anyone. It's a blessing that they care enough to work with people who have all different types of insurance from work to state coverage.

Justin E.

The staff is friendly. The Doc is very knowledgeable. The office is family friendly and everyone is so patient with the little ones.

Amy Fagerness
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