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Myopia vs. Astigmatism: What’s the Difference?

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The point of view of someone with double-vision looking at a wooden mannequin.

If you’re experiencing blurry vision or difficulty seeing distant objects, you might wonder whether you have myopia or astigmatism. Both conditions are refractive errors that share similar treatments, but there are some critical differences between them.

Myopia and astigmatism differ in how they affect the shape of your eye and the vision issues they cause. The ideal way to find out whether you need to manage myopia or astigmatism is to schedule an eye exam. A comprehensive assessment of your vision and eyes can help us pinpoint the cause of blurry vision and provide appropriate treatment.

What Is Myopia?

Myopia, commonly known as nearsightedness, is a refractive error that affects how light enters your eye. People with myopia have eyes that are too long, or their cornea is too curved, causing light rays to focus in front of their retina instead of on it. As a result, distant objects appear blurry, while close-up objects remain sharp.

What Is Astigmatism?

Astigmatism occurs when your cornea or the lens of your eye has an irregular or uneven curve. When you have astigmatism, light entering your eye refracts unevenly, causing different points of an object to focus at different distances from your retina. This can cause distortions in vision at all distances and other visual issues, such as halos around lights or difficulty seeing fine details.

Causes of Myopia & Astigmatism

The cause of astigmatism isn’t decisively known, but it’s believed that genetics plays a role. People can also develop astigmatism following ocular surgery or an eye injury too. 

Myopia is also known to have hereditary risk factors, alongside other factors that can contribute to its development, such as:

  • Not spending enough time outdoors in natural light and open space
  • Prolonged periods of near work, such as using a computer or reading

Symptoms of Myopia & Astigmatism

One way to distinguish between myopia and astigmatism is to pay attention to the type of blurriness you experience. With myopia, distant objects appear fuzzy and out of focus, while close-up objects remain clear. With astigmatism, objects can appear blurry or distorted at any distance.

Some shared symptoms of myopia and astigmatism include:

  • Blurry vision
  • Eye strain
  • Headaches
  • Frequent squinting

Both myopia and astigmatism exist on a spectrum. Mild versions of these refractive errors may not be entirely noticeable. It’s also not uncommon for astigmatism and myopia to occur together, and many people have both.

Visiting your optometrist for annual eye exams can help you detect even the slightest changes in your vision. We can also provide suggestions and treatment for vision correction to help prevent eye strain, improve your vision, and reduce visual discomfort.

Diagnosing Refractive Errors

Visual acuity and refraction tests are some of the most common diagnostic tools for refractive errors.

Visual acuity tests measure how well you see letters on an eye chart at certain distances, and refraction tests determine the exact prescription for corrective eyewear after analyzing the way light refracts through your eye.

Other tests for refractive errors may include a cover test to assess eye alignment and a slit-lamp examination to check for eye health and possible anomalies.

An optometrist holding up a pair of corrective eyeglasses and a plastic container of a contact lens.

Correcting Myopia & Astigmatism

Astigmatism and myopia treatments employ many of the same methods, including:

  • Corrective eyeglasses and contact lenses
  • Laser surgery

Corrective lenses can compensate for the irregularities in the shape of your eye and help light focus directly on your retina. For astigmatism, contact lenses are typically more specialized—scleral contact lenses, rigid gas-permeable lenses, and toric soft contact lenses are commonly prescribed for those affected by astigmatism.

For those who prefer not to wear contact lenses or glasses, LASIK and other refractive surgeries may also be an option to correct astigmatism and myopia. These procedures use a laser to reshape the cornea and change how light focuses on your retina. Their effectiveness can vary based on the degree and severity of the conditions affecting your eyes. 

Test Your Eyes for Myopia & Astigmatism

At Rancho Santa Margarita Optometry, our eye doctors can perform thorough eye exams to identify refractive errors and provide a precise prescription to help enhance your vision. Schedule an appointment today to prioritize your ocular health and vision.

Written by Total Vision

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