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Astigmatism vs. Nearsighted: What’s the Difference?

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A woman is squinting to see clearly her way while driving a car. Squinting is a symptoms of astigmatism.

The National Eye Institute estimates that over 150 million Americans have a refractive error, with nearsightedness and astigmatism being two of the most common types.

While astigmatism and nearsightedness are both refractive errors that can cause blurry vision due to an irregularly shaped cornea, there are some key differences between them.

In nearsightedness, the cornea has more curvature than it is supposed to, resulting in blurry vision of distant objects. In astigmatism, the cornea is shaped more like a football resulting in blurry vision at all distances. 

Your vision is not something to take lightly, if you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of either refractive error, it’s time to book an eye exam to see what’s going on with your eyes.

Let’s explore the differences between nearsightedness and astigmatism, including their causes, symptoms, and treatment options.

A woman trying to read messages on her phone too close to her face.  Nearsightedness is a common vision condition that causes objects that are far away to appear blurry while objects up close appear clear

What Does Being Nearsighted Mean?

Have you ever struggled to see things that are far away, like a movie screen or a whiteboard at school? If so, you might have nearsightedness, also known as myopia.

Nearsightedness is a common vision condition that causes objects that are far away to appear blurry while objects up close appear clear. This happens when the shape of the eye is too long or the cornea, the clear front surface of the eye, is too curved.

As a result, light entering the eye is not focused correctly, causing distant objects to appear blurry. Nearsightedness is often inherited and tends to run in families.

It’s typically diagnosed during childhood or adolescence and can progress as the child grows.

Symptoms of Nearsightedness

Symptoms of nearsightedness include:

  • Blurry vision for distant objects: This is the most common symptom of nearsightedness.
  • Frequent headaches: Nearsightedness can cause eye strain and fatigue, which can lead to frequent headaches.
  • Difficulty seeing in low light: Nearsightedness can make it harder to see in low-light conditions, such as at dusk or in dimly lit rooms.

How to Correct Nearsightedness

Nearsightedness can be corrected with:

  • Glasses
  • Contact lenses
  • Refractive surgery such as LASIK

The type of correction needed will depend on your specific situation and your needs and preferences.

What Does Having Astigmatism Mean?

Astigmatism, on the other hand, is a condition that occurs when the cornea is shaped more like a football than a basketball. This irregular curvature of the cornea causes light rays to focus on multiple points instead of just one, resulting in distorted vision at all distances.

Astigmatism can be inherited or it can develop due to other factors such as injury or eye surgery. It can occur in combination with other vision conditions, such as nearsightedness or farsightedness. Astigmatism is typically diagnosed during a comprehensive eye exam.

Symptoms of Astigmatism

If you have astigmatism, you may experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Blurry or distorted vision at all distances
  • Difficulty seeing at night
  • Headaches or eye strain after reading or working on a computer for extended periods of time
  • Squinting or closing one eye to see clearly

How to Correct Astigmatism

Astigmatism can be corrected with glasses, contacts, or surgery. The type of treatment that’s best for you will depend on the severity of your astigmatism and your personal preferences.

  • Glasses: Glasses can correct astigmatism by using lenses that are shaped to compensate for the irregular curvature of the cornea.
  • Contacts: Contact lenses work in the same way as glasses to correct astigmatism. There are several types of contact lenses available, including soft contacts and rigid gas-permeable (RGP) contacts.
  • Surgery: Several types of surgery can correct astigmatism, including LASIK and PRK. These procedures reshape the cornea to correct the irregular curvature and improve vision.

What Happens If You Don’t Treat Nearsightedness & Astigmatism

Astigmatism and nearsightedness are common vision issues that can affect how clearly we see. Both conditions can be corrected with glasses, contacts, or refractive surgery such as LASIK, but what happens if they are left untreated?

If left untreated, nearsightedness & astigmatism can result in:

  • Eyestrain
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty with activities that need visual focus such as sports
  • In severe cases, vision loss

In addition to the negative impact on daily life, untreated astigmatism and nearsightedness can also increase the risk of other vision problems.

For example, nearsightedness can increase the risk of retinal detachment, a serious condition that can cause permanent vision loss. Astigmatism can also make it more difficult to treat other vision issues, such as cataracts or glaucoma.

It’s important to have regular eye exams to diagnose and treat astigmatism and nearsightedness. With proper treatment, most people are able to see clearly and lead normal, active lives. Don’t wait to seek treatment for your vision issues – schedule an eye exam with Los Angeles EyeCare Optometry.

Written by Total Vision

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