Astigmatism for a long time was an eye problem that could not be fully corrected with contact lenses. Mild astigmatism could be adequately improved with soft contact lenses, but there weren’t options for more severe cases. The eye problem itself results from a misshaped cornea – rather than being spherical like a ball, the cornea in people with astigmatism is oblong, shaped more like a football. Because of this shape, light rays can’t refract properly against the retina. Instead of focusing the rays on one spot, the odd shape causes light to refract in multiple locations on the retina, causing the blurred vision, regardless of distance, that is symptomatic of astigmatism.
Understanding toric contact lenses
The development of toric contact lenses opened up a whole new world of vision for people with astigmatism. Toric contact lenses don’t look any different than other soft or rigid gas permeable contact lenses, but in fact they are very different. The lenses consist of a number of different curvatures in various meridians or sections on the lens. Since astigmatism is a problem involving unbalanced meridian sections (due to the odd shape of the cornea) bringing the meridian sections back into balance is what helps produce clear vision.
Since the positioning of the various curvatures is key to improving vision, toric soft contact lenses cannot rotate – they must be held in a certain position in order to be effective. This is accomplished several ways. One way is to add weight to the bottom of the lens by building up or thickening that section. Another way is to make the top part of the lens lighter, by thinning this section.
Rigid gas permeable lenses are an option
Yet another way to correct astigmatism with contact lenses is to use rigid gas permeable lenses. These lenses are not as flimsy as soft lenses and that enables them to hold onto their shapes, even after blinking. Regular gas permeable lenses work effectively at correcting mild to moderate astigmatism, but in cases where the astigmatism is severe, it’s usually necessary to purchase gas permeable toric contact lenses. Toric lenses are custom shaped so that the inside of the lens more closely matches the shape of the astigmatism. Because of the customized fit, toric lenses remain in position and rotation isn’t an issue.
And because toric contact lenses involve customization, you’ll likely have to pay more for this type of contact lens. You might even find that your eye doctor charges more when fitting you for toric lenses because of the extra work involved in properly measuring each eye.
If you work with an eye doctor you trust, he or she will likely first try to prescribe regular contact lenses to treat your astigmatism. Again, mild and moderate astigmatism can usually be adequately corrected with standard lenses. Only when the astigmatism becomes severe is it necessary to resort to toric style contact lenses. When this happens, you’ll find that toric lenses are available as daily wear, extended wear, silicone hydrogel and disposable brands. They even come in an assortment of eye color options!