Astigmatism is a deformation in the eye's cornea shape. Astigmatism in children frequently goes unnoticed because many of the effects of astigmatism in children can resemble symptoms of other learning or vision problems. Instead of saying that images or words appear blurry, children suffer from astigmatism might simply complain of headaches or struggle with reading. Eyeglasses are the most common treatment of astigmatism in children. Other forms of treatment, such as surgery or contact lenses, typically are not used for children, although teenagers might be able to use contact lenses.
Astigmatism in children can manifest in many ways, but the most common effects are blurred vision, dizziness, fatigue, headaches and difficulty focusing. This is because a misshapen cornea can distort images severely enough that the child might spend a great deal of time squinting or tilting his or her head at strange angles to compensate. Some children react poorly to the effects of astigmatism, causing them to act out and neglect schoolwork. The effects of astigmatism in children can surface in such different ways that many schools regularly perform routine vision tests.
Any parent who suspects defects in his or her child's eyesight should schedule an appointment with an ophthalmologist. The ophthalmologist will perform a series of tests to determine whether the child is indeed inflicted with astigmatism and to what degree. These tests determine at what distances the child can clearly see and the curvature and shape of the child's cornea. If severe astigmatism in children isn't treated before the child is 8 years old, amblyopia, or "lazy eye," might develop.
Several options exist for treating astigmatism in adults, but in children, the treatments are far more limited. When a case of childhood astigmatism is severe enough to affect the child's vision, an eye doctor is most likely to prescribe glasses. This is because children and their eyes are still growing and maturing.
Surgical vision correction options are inappropriate for children because their eyes haven't finished growing and changing. Special contact lenses might be appropriate for older children and teenagers able to learn how to safely insert lenses into their eyes without scratching the corneas. Prescription eyeglasses, however, are appropriate for children of all ages because of their their ease of use and proven effectiveness.
Children who have been prescribed eyeglasses for astigmatism usually get used to them in less than a week. If after two weeks of frequent wear, a child is still complaining of headaches or dizziness, the parent should consult once more with the ophthalmologist. If the transition to glasses goes smoothly, children should still visit the eye doctor once a year to monitor any further changes in vision.