Astigmatism; Seeing a Distorted World

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Written for
Earth Star Magazine April-May 2009
By Rosemary Gaddum Gordon, D.B.O., M.A.

If you have astigmatism, seeing is confusing. Parts of an image may be clear while other parts are fuzzy or double. Often there are multiple images. This happens when the cornea, the front surface of the eye, or the lens inside the eye, is warped; it is not symmetrical. This causes the image on the retina to be distorted. Uncorrected astigmatism often causes the eyes, mind and whole body to tire easily.

There are two kinds of astigmatism: regular and irregular. Glasses can correct the former, but not the latter, which is usually the result of an accident or disease process. Regular astigmatism can be corrected by Holistic Vision Improvement; the irregular can be helped and made more comfortable.

Astigmatic distortion in the eyes is often variable. It may even appear and then disappear. One vision student went to three different optometrists in one afternoon and was given three different prescriptions. Maybe you’ve noticed the moon or letters strangely changing shape sometimes.

One of the ways the cornea may become asymmetrical is if the muscles on the outside of the eyeball are pulling unevenly due to tension or strain. Activities you can do to correct this are to loosen these eye muscles. If you look at your prescription the strongest lens will be aligned with the direction of greatest distortion. The column listed “axis” will tell you this direction. Zero degrees is on you right, ninety degrees is straight up and one hundred and eighty degrees is on your left. With this in mind, move your head along an imaginary line at that angle to the ground. Let your eyes and mind be open to receive the images as they flow past; not stopping on any of the objects. Continue this a few times and then repeat the movement with your eyes closed, remembering what you would be seeing if your eyes were open. Open your eyes and repeat again. An alternative activity is to do this using a yardstick. Hold it out in front of you and move it at that same angle listed on your prescription. Move your head in the opposite direction to the movement of the yard stick as you gently brush your line of sight across the numbers.

If you don’t have a prescription, look at something with sharp lines on a good contrasting background, like a grid or letter on a chart or the moon in a night sky. Notice where any shadows or multiple images appear; they will be at your angle of astigmatism and that will be the angle of movement your eyes need. Often each eye has a different angle, so use a patch and loosen each set of muscles in turn. Palm and rest your eyes if they feel tired.

Interestingly, many immigrants develop astigmatism. Mine sometimes recurs, even after over 40 years here in the U.S. In a different country it’s easy to misread people’s behavior. Even though I speak English, I feel that I don’t really understand some situations. My daughter and husband, both born here, have been very helpful in explaining the culture to me. I see what’s happening, but it doesn’t always fit with my prior experience, my response is not always appropriate … there’s a mismatch, a distortion of my reality. I’ve had to change my understanding of what I see in order to fit into the culture in which I now live. It can be difficult, but also funny.

If you notice some astigmatism, relax and remember how variable it can be. Notice if you are in a situation where you are being asked to see the world differently than you usually do. If you are, decide where you stand, do a little of the brushing technique and notice what happens.

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