Blurry and distorted vision leading to eyestrain, headaches, squinting and eye discomfort

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What is astigmatism?

When your eye is shaped like an egg instead of a round ball

Who gets astigmatism?

Astigmatism is the most common refractive error – almost everyone has a little astigmatism


If you have astigmatism, your glasses prescription will have a unit of cylinder (often noted as C or CYL) that is typically expressed as a positive or negative number. This means the degree of astigmatism you have, expressing how much you experience blurry and distorted vision. Your prescription will also have an axis (expressed as a multiplier) which reveals the orientation of astigmatism.


Uncorrected, your astigmatism can be bothersome. Fortunately, glasses and contact lenses can correct astigmatism. Unfortunately, you may dislike the way your glasses look or feel, and you may be worried about the high risk of contact lens infection after prolonged use.


In glasses, rain can be a struggle. Your glasses may fog up, get loose and fall down your nose. Needing to constantly clean them is a regular hassle. Falling asleep in them can cause them to break. Not being able to wear sunglasses can be a real bother. When it comes to contact lenses, they can cause dryness, computer vision syndrome, serious eye infections, and grittiness and irritation if you wear them too long.


You might have heard people say you look better without glasses or even tell you that you should get contact lenses. You might feel they detract from or hide your facial features. They might make your eyes look unnaturally large or small.


Help is at hand! With modern laser eye surgery and lens replacement, we’ve been able to treat all sorts of eye problems, including astigmatism, for decades. Futhermore, we have excellent results proving its safety and effectiveness.

Affiliations and memberships

I am proud to be associated with these organisations as a member or consultant

Vision correction enables you to experience a richer life without spectacles or contacts

Take one of the first steps and find out if you are suitable

Supplementary information about Astigmatism

In my expert hands, you certainly don’t need to know all of the information I’ve included in the toggles below. If you’d like to know how it all works, however, open them and learn more.

Astigmatism is an imperfection in the shape of your eye’s cornea or lens. Usually, the cornea and lens are round or spherical like a football. In eyes that have astigmatism, the cornea and or lens of the eye are oval in shape like an egg. As a result, light rays focus on a blurred oval shape on the retina rather than as a single sharp image.

Glasses and toric contact lenses can simulate the elongation of the cornea and lens either horizontally or vertically.

Often, people will have a combination of either short-sightedness and astigmatism or long-sightedness and astigmatism. Therefore, glasses will have a positive lens to correct the long-sightedness, combined with a toric lens to correct astigmatism. In cases of short-sightedness, glasses will have a negative power lens to compensate for the short-sightedness and a toric lens to correct astigmatism.

Astigmatism is where the corneal and/or lens of the eye, rather than being completely round shaped, is actually slightly oval shaped and elongated and that can either be elongated horizontally or vertically.

Just like many of us slightly asymmetrical faces and other bodily features, so too does cornea and lens sometimes have irregularities. In the case of eyes, these differences in symmetry and shape result in visual distortion.

Astigmatism symptoms and lifestyle impacts

Astigmatism causes elongation and distortion of the image of the world. It affects both distance and close up vision. Astigmatism is particularly problematic at night when you will notice glare and distortion from lights.

Astigmatism examination in London

Essential components of an examination are

  • refraction (spectacle test),
  • ocular examination and
  • a dilated fundus examination to check the health of the eye and retina
  • PentacamⓇ scan

I, or a member of my highly-trained team, can precisely measure the amount of corneal astigmatism with a sophisticated scanner called a PentacamⓇ.

You can temporarily correct astigmatism with glasses and contact lenses. I can permanently correct astigmatism with laser eye surgery and implantable contact lenses (ICL).

In older patients, lens replacement or refractive lens exchange and multifocal lens implants may be our treatment of choice, especially after 50 years of age.

Take the first step

Find out if your eyes are suitable for vision correction

Book a free screening now or get us to give you a call back to answer questions

Even more information about astigmatism

I frequently write articles and publish videos to answer people’s most common questions and keep them updated on the latest developments in vision correction. Find out more below…

Laser eye surgery myths

Laser eye surgery myths Vision correction surgery misconceptions vary from minor inaccuracies, such as “it only lasts a few years, right?” to the ludicrous; “Do you have to take the eyeball

Can I get laser eye surgery?

If you dislike your glasses and contact lenses, you might be wondering "can I get laser eye surgery?" To find out whether you may qualify for this life-changing procedure, read on.

A clear look into the types of laser eye surgery in London

All laser eye surgery has the same general idea - a surgeon uses a laser to reshape your cornea, improving your vision. There are multiple ways a surgeon can do this, though. You need to know if you’re getting the right type of surgery. Take a look at these top types of laser eye surgery in London.

Compare astigmatism with other relevant eye conditions

Eye conditions are frequently misunderstood, so here’s a quick overview of the ones I most commonly treat


Short-sightedness is also known as Myopia.

Short-sightedness (or myopia) is an eye condition where the focusing power of the eye is too strong. For that reason, if you’re short-sighted, you need to wear negative power lenses to reduce the focusing power of the eye. Doing so brings the image of the world into focus on our retina. Learn more about short-sightedness

Treatments for short-sightedness


Long-sightedness is also known as Hyperopia or Hypermetropia.

Hyperopia or long-sightedness is an eye condition where the focusing power of the eye is too weak. For that reason, if you have long-sightedness, you need to wear positive power lenses to increase the focusing power of the eye and bring the image of the world into focus on our retina. Learn more about long-sightedness

Treatments for long-sightedness


The term “dry eye” covers many different eye conditions where an imbalance in the volume or quality of the tears results in inflammation and damage to the surface of the eye. Patients have varying degrees of dry eye symptoms from occasional discomfort and stinging to severe pain and inability to see. Learn more about dry eye…


Presbyopia is the eye condition which causes people aged 45 and older to need reading glasses. The ageing of the eye’s natural lens which stiffens and loses its ability to focus causes presbyopia.

Treatments for presbyopia


Cataract is the term we use to describe the changes that occur when the lens of the eye loses its transparency and changes from appearing like a crystal clear window to appearing like a misted window like frosted glass. Learn more about cataract

Treatments for cataract


Keratoconus is a condition where the cornea, the front window of the eye, becomes thinner, loses its strength and begins to warp out of shape progressively. Learn more about keratoconus

Treatments for keratoconus


Recurrent corneal erosion is a painful eye condition where there are episodes of severe pain on waking which resolve over a few days to a week only to reoccur again in the future. Learn more about recurrent corneal erosion

Treatments for recurrent corneal erosion

  • Laser Phototherapeutic Keratectomy (PTK)

About the author

Mr Alex J. Shortt | Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon

MB BCh MSc PhD FRCOphth PGDipCatRef

I’m Alex Shortt, a highly trained academic researcher and Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon based in London’s famous Harley Street medical district. I trained and worked as a consultant for 14 years at London’s Moorfields Eye Hospital. I specialise in advanced technologies for correcting vision, including cataract surgery, implantable contact lenses and laser vision correction.

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