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Can You Wear Normal Contact Lenses with Astigmatism?

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A pair of contact lenses sitting next to a contact lens case and someone pouring contact lens solution into the case

Contact lenses can be a game-changer for people who want clear vision without the inconvenience of glasses. They can provide a natural look and feel that lets you live your life without limitations. In addition, unlike glasses, contact lenses do not obstruct your face and can be less noticeable to others, making them a perfect choice for people who don’t want frames clashing with their style.

However, contact lenses are still medical devices. Your optometrist will measure your eyes and prepare your lenses after an eye exam so they suit your vision needs. If you have astigmatism, you may have heard that you have “hard-to-fit” eyes. People with mild astigmatism might be able to wear normal contact lenses, but you’ll typically need specialty lenses if your astigmatism is more severe.

Even with astigmatism, you’re not out of options. Your optometrist is here to help, so let’s explore the world of contact lenses together!

What Is Astigmatism?

Astigmatism is a common refractive error that can cause blurry vision at all ranges. In eyes without astigmatism, the cornea and lens are round and evenly curved (like a basketball), which allows incoming light to focus sharply on the retina at the back of the eye. However, in an eye with astigmatism, the cornea or lens is shaped differently (ending up more like a football), causing light to focus unevenly on the retina.

Astigmatism can be present from birth or develop later in life. While the exact cause of astigmatism is unknown, genetics does seem to play a factor. Meaning if one or more of your parents have astigmatism, you may be likely to have it as well. An eye injury or eye surgery may also cause it. 

Astigmatism is very common, and there are several options for supporting the vision of people with astigmatism. Contact lenses are a popular choice to help provide clear vision and support an individual’s quality of life.

Benefits of Contact Lenses

Contact lenses offer several benefits over traditional eyeglasses. For starters, some people prefer contact lenses for aesthetic reasons, as they can provide a more natural look and do not obstruct the face or hide the eyes.

Contact lenses can also offer a wider field of view than eyeglasses. With contact lenses, the frame of the glasses doesn’t obstruct your peripheral vision, which can be especially helpful for driving or sports. In general, they’re helpful for most active lifestyles since it’s much more difficult to knock them off your face and they don’t fog up.

A woman using her index finger to place a contact lens in her left eye

Rigid Gas Permeable (RGP) Lenses for Astigmatism

RGP lenses are made of durable, gas-permeable material. They can provide crisp vision, but some people find they take longer to adjust to wearing. You may have to spend a bit more time cleaning them as well.

However, because they’re more rigid, they can be useful for people with astigmatism. This is because they retain their shape when on your eye, so you don’t have to worry about them deforming to match your eye shape.

Toric Contact Lenses for Astigmatism

Toric lenses are specially designed lenses for people with moderate to severe astigmatism. Regular contact lenses are spherical. Imagine taking a thin slice off the side of a basketball. What you remove is the shape of a contact lens.

A toric lens, on the other hand, is based on a torus. A torus is a unique 3-dimensional shape with many interesting meanings—but it’s essentially a donut. When you shave the side off a torus, you end up with a shape that has more weight on one side.

This weight allows toric lenses to provide different amounts of correction depending on the orientation. This is important because astigmatism can happen in two basic ways:

  • Horizontal astigmatism is when the eye is wider than it is tall
  • Vertical astigmatism is when the eye is taller than it is wide

Toric lenses use their own irregular shape to create different focusing powers on each orientation, effectively changing the prescription as you move around the lens. Because they have a specific orientation in which they need to sit on your eye, a proper fitting is absolutely essential.

Other than their shape, toric lenses have many of the same options as regular contact lenses, coming in both soft and RGP materials.

Aspheric Lenses for Mild Astigmatism

Aspheric lenses can be a good option for those with mild astigmatism. Aspheric lenses change their curvature as you go from center to edge, minimizing the optical aberrations already present in your eye. This varying shape allows them to provide clear vision for people with mild astigmatism without needing a toric design.

Innovative Contact Lenses

Contact lenses are marvelous pieces of medical technology, and they’re only getting better with time. The Eye Care Team can help you find innovative contact lenses that support your vision and eye health. We will consider the level of astigmatism, your prescription, and your lifestyle to recommend the right type of contact lens for you.

Book an appointment today in Spokane or Chewelah to learn about all types of contact lenses for all types of vision needs!

Written by Dr. Daniel Evans

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