Q: What exactly is astigmatism?
A: Usually it is related to the shape factor of the front surface of the eye called the cornea. Instead of being shaped spherically like a ball bearing or a marble, it is shaped like a football, being more curved in one direction than the other. This brings light to focus at more than 1 point. The root word stigma means point and the prefix A means without a point focus in the eye.
Q: My previous eye doctor told me I have “stigma!” Am I going to go blind?
A: Stigma is actually referring to a type of refractive error known properly as astigmatism, and no, you will not go blind from having astigmatism; it is not a disease, in fact, it is relatively common. There are three types of refractive error, myopia, hyperopia and astigmatism. The former two are more regularly referred to as nearsighted (cannot see far away) and farsighted (cannot see up close). Astigmatism is simply the third category; it affects both the near and far vision at the same time. Much like nearsightedness or farsightedness, astigmatism is corrected using glasses or contacts. Technically speaking an eye with astigmatism requires two different prescriptions to correct vision in one eye due to the more oval shape of the cornea. This will require a more specialized contact lens and a more in depth fitting procedure. Nonetheless your eye care provider can, and will, correct your astigmatism with glasses and/or contacts.