Astigmatism, or a disorder of the cornea, is a fairly common eye condition in both adults and children.
Timely identification of this problem in childhood makes it possible to avoid severe visual impairment later on, as the child develops and grows older.
But only 30-40% of affected children have the disease detected in time. How crucial may it be?
What is astigmatism?
The cornea is the most anterior part of the eyeball, located in front of the pupil. It has a slightly oval shape and is spherically convex according to the shape of the eyeball. If this sphericity is not uniform, specialists call it a curvature of the cornea, or astigmatism. The word itself is of Greek origin and means "lack of points."
When the cornea is irregularly spherical, the rays of light entering the eye are unable to focus at one point of the retina (this physiological mechanism ensures visual acuity).
When there is a curvature in different parts of the cornea, the light rays are formed into beams in different ways. As a consequence, they get together on the retina not at one point, but in a line, which leads to a blurred image.
Although the disease is most often associated with corneal sphericity disorder, it also has a broader meaning. It can also occur as a result of irregularities in the lens of the eye and even the fundus of the eye. That is, astigmatism is also possible with a regular shape of the cornea.
Specialists distinguish between different forms of this abnormality, and, depending on this, choose one or another method of treatment.
Research has proved that the presence of astigmatism in parents and/or grandparents is a factor increasing the risk of astigmatism in children. The greater the paternal astigmatism degree is, the higher is the risk in their child. The value of over 1 diopter in both parents is clearly associated with the likelihood of developing the condition in their children.
How can astigmatism affect a child's health?
If the disease is not identified in time, it means that appropriate treatment is not administered. This can lead to consequences of varying degrees of severity. For example, inhibition of the development process, frequent headaches and other health problems.
In some cases, the brain manages "to beat" astigmatism and forms a clear picture of vision even with uneven visual acuity. In other cases, the eye can not learn to see correctly, and later, even with special corrections, the brain is unable to create a clear picture.
With unequal visual acuity of the eyes, it is also possible that the brain will gradually "delete" the signal of the weaker eye, up to its disconnection. This process is reversible and correctable only up to the age of 12, then not.
All this makes the issue of childhood astigmatism not so harmless and requires timely action.
How can you suspect that your child has astigmatism?
Children in their first years of life are unable to report that they can't see very well. A little person with impaired vision, does not know another world, so they do not realize that what the picture they see is blurred.
There is a chance that as the child grows, this condition will cause problems with learning at school. Lack of attention and even hyperactivity should be considered as signs. Inability to concentrate during the learning process may be due to the fact that the letters in textbooks, as well as on the school blackboard, are not focused by the child's eye. The disease may also be indicated by complaints of frequent headaches, especially in the eye and forehead areas. In addition, such children often tilt their head to look at something. One of the symptoms could be frequent redness and itching of the eyes, because during the school day the eyes of the child strain too much.
When reading aloud, these children sometimes skip whole lines or transpose syllables in the words they are reading.
It is very important that if the parents (or one of them) have astigmatism, or it is present in the grandparents, they do not miss possible signs of this disorder in their child and timely visit an eye specialist for early diagnosis. Performing a visual test to evaluate the visual function of each eye helps in the early diagnosis of the disease. The doctor clarifies the degree and form of the disease with the help of additional tests. Depending on the results of the examination, clinical features, and the age of the child, the appropriate type of treatment is chosen. Its timely and consistent implementation contributes to the preservation of vision and helps avoid complications.
- Astigmatismusrisiko beim Kind von Stärke des elterlichen Astigmatismus abhängig. Deutsches Aerzteblatt, Freitag, 30. Dezember 2022 www.aerzteblatt.de
- Jane Gwiazda, Kenneth Grice, Richard Held, James McLellan, FrankThorn. Astigmatism and the development of myopia in children. Vision Research, Volume 40, Issue 8, April 2000, Pages 1019-1026