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Astigmatism vs. Myopia: What’s the Difference?

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A child with large round glasses sitting on a couch and holding a smartphone very close to his face

Eyesight is a critical sense that impacts nearly every aspect of our lives, from navigating our environment to absorbing information. 

Yet, when it comes to eye health, many people may not know the difference between common vision problems such as astigmatism and myopia. Recognizing the distinction between these conditions is vital to managing your eye health effectively.

Myopia, also known as nearsightedness, occurs when distant objects appear blurry. On the other hand, astigmatism results in distorted or blurry vision at any distance due to an irregularly shaped cornea or lens.

Common Refractive Errors

Astigmatism and myopia are both refractive errors, meaning they affect how light is bent (or refracted) within the eye, leading to blurred vision. While they can often coexist, their causes and impacts on our vision differ. 

Understanding these differences is crucial, especially for parents monitoring their children’s eye development and for working professionals who depend on clear vision for productivity.

Understanding Astigmatism

Astigmatism arises from an irregular curvature of the cornea or lens, resulting in light being focused unevenly on the retina. This irregularity can be genetic or develop following an injury or eye surgery.

Common Symptoms

  • Blurred or distorted vision at all distances
  • Difficulty with night vision
  • Eye strain and headaches

Diagnostic Tests & Treatment Options

An optometrist can diagnose astigmatism using standard vision tests, keratometry, and corneal topography. Treatments usually involve corrective lenses, such as toric contact lenses or eyeglasses. In some cases, refractive surgery like LASIK may be an option.

Understanding Myopia

Myopia, or nearsightedness, is when objects nearby are clear while distant objects appear blurred. It’s caused when the eyeball is too long or the cornea has too much curvature, causing light to focus in front of the retina.

Common Symptoms

  • Blurred vision when looking at distant objects
  • The need to squint to see clearly
  • Eye strain and headaches from prolonged focus

Myopia in Children

When kids develop myopia, they often struggle to clearly see objects at a distance. This can lead to difficulties reading the board in class, following visual presentations, and participating in outdoor activities. As a result, their academic performance and overall engagement in the learning environment may be affected.

Early detection and management of myopia are essential to make sure that children receive the necessary support to thrive in their academic and social environments. Regular eye checkups, wearing corrective eyewear, and creating a supportive learning environment can help mitigate the impact of myopia on kids’ learning experiences.

Diagnostic Tests & Treatment Options

Similarly to astigmatism, myopia is diagnosed through vision tests. Treatment primarily involves the use of eyeglasses or contact lenses. For long-term management, options like orthokeratology (ortho-k) or myopia control lenses can slow progression in children.

Brantford Eye Care offers various myopia control options for children’s vision, including:

  • Atropine eye drops to help slow down the progression of myopia.
  • CooperVision MiSight contact lenses redirect light to manage myopia development.
  • HOYA MiyoSmart eyewear lenses address abnormal eye growth associated with myopia.

Differences Between Astigmatism & Myopia

The essential distinction between astigmatism and myopia lies in their root causes: the shape of the cornea or lens for astigmatism versus the length of the eyeball for myopia. This basic difference leads to varying impacts on vision—astigmatism distorts vision at all distances, while myopia affects explicitly distance vision.

Overlapping Symptoms & Impact

Both conditions can cause blurred vision and eye strain, making it challenging to distinguish between them without a professional diagnosis.

Vision irregularities can damper day-to-day activities, impacting the ability to read, drive, and work efficiently, especially in occupations that require precise visual detail or long hours in front of digital screens.

Managing Your Eye Health

When these vision problems are left unaddressed, they can lead to various complications that impact overall eye health. 

Maintaining eye health involves regular eye exams and proactively managing your vision with proper lighting, breaks from screen time, and wearing your prescription eyewear. Certain exercises and good nutrition may also support eye health, although genetics heavily influence these conditions.

A female optometrist using a medical device to examine the eyes of a child patient and look for potential eye problems.

Understand Your Eye Health with an Eye Exam

The differences between astigmatism and myopia are subtle yet significant, and understanding them is essential for managing your eye health proactively. With this knowledge, you can take informed steps to help preserve your vision and maintain a high quality of life. 

Regular checkups with your eye doctor are a great way to monitor your eye health and make appropriate decisions about treatment and management. Book your next eye exam at Brantford Eye Care today.

Written by Dr. Cynthia Markarian Bahoshy

How many doctors does it take to change a lightbulb?”

One or two.

Clear, comfortable vision is such an integral and important part of our lives. I enjoy interacting with our patients, learning about them and their visual needs and I get great satisfaction when I can improve their quality of life by providing them with optimal eyesight at the same time as screening for and treating potentially sight-threatening conditions.

I have been an optometrist at Brantford Eye Care (previously known as Dr. Robert Schumacher and associates) since 2002. I became the new owner of Brantford Eye Care in October 2012.

I attended the University of Ottawa where I studied Biochemistry as part of my undergraduate Bachelor of Science degree. I completed my Doctor of optometry (OD) degree at the University of Waterloo in 2002.

My externship was completed at the Houston Eye Associates in Texas. During that time, I gained extensive experience in all aspects of ocular health diagnosis and management. This included exposure to various retinal conditions, glaucoma, cataracts, children’s vision, binocular vision, and other aspects of ocular disease.

I worked as a student researcher at the Centre of Contact Lens Research at the School of Optometry, University of Waterloo where I gained extensive experience in all aspects of contact lenses. I also worked as a student researcher at the Ottawa General hospital in the Department of Ophthalmology during my university years.

I am an active member of the Ontario Association of Optometrists, The Canadian Association of Optometrists, the Ontario College of Optometrists, and the Hamilton and District Area Society of Optometrists. I am certified in the Treatment and Management of Ocular Diseases.

My main interests are in dry eyes, contact lenses, and in children’s vision. I have experience working as an optometrist at a Toronto LASIK centre and I am able to answer any questions you may have regarding LASIK and other refractive surgeries. We are affiliated with the various LASIK centres and can refer you for a complimentary LASIK consultation as well as perform your pre and post-op examinations at our office.

I enjoy many activities such as swimming, yoga, playing the piano, and spending time with my family. I enjoy solving visual issues and challenges and meeting new people.

I’ve been very fortunate to have met so many wonderful patients and families at our office. I enjoy being a part of Brantford’s health care team and look forward to seeing you at the office!

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