Astigmatism and Holiday Lights - Choice

Submitted by kaelynchang on Tue, 11/29/2022 - 18:47

As we approach the holiday season, dazzling lights and flashy decorations are bound to be placed across your environment. Whether placed around your home, your neighborhood, or your overall community, holiday lights are a common way to express cheerful spirit throughout the winter months.

For someone with astigmatism, however, these lights may be a source of piercing headaches and eye strain. Astigmatism is an eye disorder that creates distorted vision due to a change in shape of the cornea. The cornea is the clear frontal layer of your eye, and it is responsible for protecting the inner eye from debris and pathogens. The various layers within the cornea, such as Bowman's layer, act as physical barriers to protect the nerves and sensory innervations of the eye. This disorder affects many individuals, with approximately 1 in 3 people experiencing astigmatism.

Layers of the cornea -- a protective sheath for the inner eye.

In a normal eye, the cornea has a curved shape similar to a rounded ball, while astigmatism causes the cornea to curve in an abnormal, egg-like shape. This atypical shape distorts vision and light that enters the eye, causing blurred vision at distances near and far. In astigmatism, one may see bounding shapes radiating off of objects in all directions, and this appearance may occur especially when looking at lights. 

Differences in cornea shape demonstrated in a normal eye and an astigmatic eye. 

Vision of an individual with astigmatism.

As a disorder, astigmatism may be the result or after-effect of an eye injury, surgery, or disease. However, most individuals diagnosed with astigmatism have had the abnormal cornea shape since birth. A refraction test, in which an eye specialist observes how light is bent as it enters your eye, or keratometry, in which the curve of your cornea is measured, are tests that can be performed to confirm astigmatism in an individual.

Keratometry results demonstrating various cases of astigmatism. In regular astigmatism, the curvature of the cornea is not entirely rounded, and it may have a football shape. In irregular astigmatism, the cornea is abnormally shaped in different areas, causing asymmetry and disorderly, flatter regions.

When observing the alluring and colorful lights this holiday season, make sure to take note of whether your head and eyes actually enjoy the experience. If you see starbursts of color shooting in all directions from each individual light, this may be a sign that you are experiencing astigmatism.