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Astigmatism: Why a Post on How People with the Condition Perceive Lights went Viral

Astigmatism Vision

The Internet is responsible for bringing us a great deal of entertaining content. These can range from trendy new dances that make their way into video games, unusual challenges (please stop eating Tide pods), and some truly out there conspiracy theories. We’ve seen everything from how aliens built the pyramids to supposedly haunted areas where grass won’t even grow because the location is haunted by a number of devils and demons. Of course, there’s even more conspiracy theories out there

There have also been images that have fried our brains, led to some intense arguments, and made us question reality. The images in question are of course the dress where people argued over whether or not it was black and blue or white and gold. Later came a shoe where people simply couldn’t agree on whether or not the shoe was blue and gray or pink and white.

The latest image to follow this trend happened when “Unusual Facts” shared a post on social media that shows how people with astigmatism perceive lights versus how normal people see lights:

Astigmatism picture

According to the post, which first surfaced on Twitter, the image on the left is how people with astigmatism perceive lights whereas the one on the right is how normal people see the lights. Many with astigmatism symptoms were quick to chime in. “That’s exactly how I see lights! Nobody believes me!” “Yes! That’s how I see lights!” Others were convinced that the image on the left was how everyone saw lights. “I thought everyone saw lights that way. I had no idea.” Of course Unusual Facts was quick to point out that the image isn’t meant to be a formal diagnosis. This definitely hasn’t stopped people from self-diagnosing though.

What is astigmatism?

Normal vision vs Astigmatism vision

Astigmatism is a “refractive error” that causes the person to perceive objects as blurry. The culprit behind the blurry perception? An irregularly shaped cornea. The cornea is the front part of the eye and is transparent in nature. It’s also the curved lens that resides within your eye. As you can tell by the image above, those with astigmatism have a different shaped lens than those with normal vision. For those with normal vision, the eye has a lens and cornea that is round in nature, whereas in those with astigmatism, the cornea and lens are egg-shaped. Obviously, this will distort your view of the world around you.

Rounded corneas and lens will help focus and filter light rays directly onto the retina. This provides the sharp, clear image of lights and objects that those with normal vision (the right image featured above) see. However, light that comes through a cornea that is irregular in shape isn’t refracted or bent properly. This causes your vision to become blurry or distorted. It can also lead to headaches, itchy eyes, and eyestrain. This is because you’re having to focus harder and really work your eyes in order to see the things around you. Your brain can quickly become exhausted from the workload, which can lead to some serious headaches.

It’s often explained as going into a fun house that has all the mirrors that are different sizes and distort your perception. Sometimes you’re obnoxiously tall, others you’re shockingly short, and sometimes you’re much wider or thinner than usual. These heavily distorted views are what those with astigmatism struggle with daily.

While the specific cause of astigmatism isn’t known, many doctors believe that it is hereditary and with you from the time you’re born. Because it can increase or decrease over time, it can be difficult to diagnose. You may have had astigmatism at one point in your life and not known it because the condition has decreased significantly. Or you may feel as if you developed the condition overnight because it’s suddenly increased.

People are commonly born with astigmatism. They often don’t  realize that they see the world differently from others and consider their distorted view to be “normal.” Many with undiagnosed astigmatism insist that they thought that everyone else perceived the world, particularly lights, the same way they do. “What do you mean that not everyone sees the lights as streaky,” seems to be the comment sentiment of the people in the comment section.

However, you can also develop astigmatism after surgery or an eye injury. The surgery doesn’t even necessarily have to be something that directly related to your eyes in order to cause astigmatism either. Surgeries done to the face, head, and brain can all alter your vision but of course you’re at greater risk of developing astigmatism if your eyes have been operated on.

Eye injuries such as a sharp object penetrating your eye can also corrupt your cornea. The object can stretch and distort the fragile lens, forever altering your view of the world.

How is it diagnosed?

Astigmatism eye test

Astigmatism test is diagnosed via eye exam. A complete exam, however, will be needed in order to complete the formal diagnosis. In the test, the doctor will conduct a number of tests designed to check both your eye’s refraction and health. Checking the eye’s refraction will tell your doctor how your eyes bend light. Depending on how your eyes are bending the light will determine whether or not you have astigmatism.

The test isn’t painful, but many describe it as boring and uncomfortable. Various instruments are employed and some of them can be irritating. “I hate resting my chin on that cold metal bar while the doctor stares into my eyes, it sucks,” people have said about the exam. Others say they can’t help but tense up when they know the blast of air is coming right for their eye. “Is that really necessary? I hate that so much! I know it’s going to happen but it scares me every time.” And yes, that air test is necessary.

One of the primary tests that your doctor will conduct involves aiming bright lights directly into your eyes. You will view the lights through a series of lenses. This helps your doctor determine which lens will be best suited for your eyes. The light tests will help your doctor put together an accurate prescription that will provide you with clear vision via either eyeglasses or contacts.

How is it treated?

Astigmatism glasses

Like the bulk of all other eye conditions, astigmatism is corrected with the use of prescription glasses or contact lenses. These are the two most common forms of correcting the problem. The strength of your prescription will be solely dependent upon how bad your astigmatism is as well as a variety of other factors like your eye’s overall health.

For those with astigmatism, glasses and contacts aren’t the only solution to the problem. Lasik eye surgery can also correct the problem. And unlike glasses or contacts where you will need to go periodically to have your prescription adjusted because your eyes continue to worsen, Lasik is permanent. If the surgery takes, then you will be completely cured of your astigmatism, which means no more trips to the doctor.

Lasik eye surgery is expensive however and it’s not necessarily guaranteed to work. There aren’t very many risks associated with the surgery, but there’s a chance that the surgery might not take. This means that you’ve shelled out a lot of money for no rewards. As far as the risks involved, they’re actually quite low. In rare cases Lasik can worsen or cause astigmatism. The most common risk is dry eyes. This, however, is a temporary condition that corrects itself once the eye fully heals from the surgery. Under and over correction are also risks associated with the surgery but these are easily negated.

Another option is orthokeratology. This method involves fitting a number of rigid contact lenses over the eye in order to reshape the cornea. You’ll wear these fitted lenses for a short period of time before removing them. Typically, you’ll wear them at night and then remove them in the morning. There’s been a lot of success with this method and even those with moderate astigmatism have seen improvements. However, it is a temporary solution. Once you stop wearing the corrective lenses, your vision will return to its normal state.

What if you see lights both ways?

Astigmatism eye with blurry image

While many were quick to say they saw the image decisively one way or another, others chimed in asking “what if you see stuff both ways?” Many also said that they sometimes saw the streaky, blurred lights but in other situations, the lights appeared “normal.” Some suggested that their view of lights changes based on the time of the day and how many lights are present.

So what exactly does it mean if you see the world around you both ways? Well, simply put it could be mean that you have some level of astigmatism. Just like with all eye issues, there are varying degrees. Some people only need reading glasses a handful of times while others depend on their glasses just to find their way out of bed. The same can be said of people with some degree of astigmatism. You can see evidence of this in the following screen grabs:

Hoe to correct Astigmatism

Slight astigmatism versus full on astigmatism will determine how you see the lights around you and how often they appear distorted. For those with some level or degree of astigmatism, you’ll see streaky lights from time to time. However, slight astigmatism typically doesn’t require treatment and doesn’t usually affect/hinder vision significantly.

As to why they occur at various times is up for debate. Many suggest that the streaky lights typically occur when tired, stressed, etc. while others argue that it’s the time of day that affects your eyes the most. “Lights look so much brighter at night and because it’s dark, your eyes will see them as streakier. You’re straining a lot harder to see because it’s dark and your eyes are adjusted to the night, but there’s bright lights all around you.” However, many doctors suggest that this slight degree of astigmatism doesn’t require treatment unless it is severely hindering your vision and life.

Doctors also insist that most people have astigmatism in some degree or another. Because it often pairs with other conditions such as nearsightedness and farsightedness, chances are you’re already being treated for the condition without even knowing.

Why did this image create such a stir?

Astigmatism lights

As suggested by the numerous comments and the fact that many can be born with astigmatism, the reason why this post went viral is clear: so many people didn’t even realize that seeing “halos” and “distortions” around lights wasn’t normal. Many just assumed that everyone in the world saw lights the way that they do as evidenced in the screen grabs below:

As you can tell, many people just assumed that the way they saw lights was how the whole world saw lights. Many also asked how this went on for so long without anyone knowing until an image went viral. “How you see lights isn’t something that comes up in everyday conversation. I’m not asking my buddy, ‘hey do the lights look streaky to you’ because I assume he sees the lights the same way I do. I have no reason to ask,” said one of the commenters. And they’re right; why would the topic of distorted lights come up if you assume that everyone around you is seeing the same thing?

Like the dress and shoes, it showed the world that people have different views of the world around them. We get so caught up believing that everyone perceives the world in the same ways as us that we often don’t realize that this isn’t the case. So when something like this comes along, it’s shocking and intriguing.

What are your thoughts?

We want to know whether or not you see the lights as streaky or “normal”. If you do see them as streaky, did you assume that everyone else around you perceived them in the same way or did you know that something was wrong? We also want to know whether or not you’ve been diagnosed with astigmatism if you do see streaky lights. If you haven’t been diagnosed, do you plan to go to the doctor? Let us know in the comment section below!

Written by Vimal Lalani

I have several years of experience in marketing and startups, and regularly contribute to a number of online platforms related to technology, marketing and small business. I closely follow how Big Data, Internet of Things, Cloud and other rising technologies grew to shape our everyday lives.

If you want to contact me for any help email me at dealpursue at gmail dot com. [dealpursue@gmail.com]

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