Trouble with the Curve

Written by Dr. David Evans   Last modified on August 6, 2018

I’m a big fan of Clint Eastwood movies and just finally got around to watching Trouble with the Curve the other night. It was pretty good, but it was no Unforgiven or Dirty Harry. You might be wondering why on earth I’m bringing this up in a vision blog. Well, I’m so utterly vision minded that when I saw the title, the first thing I thought of was astigmatism.

So what’s the connection?

Astigmatism is a common refractive error that affects the eye’s ability to focus light. Pretty much everyone has some degree of astigmatism, though for some it can be impactful enough to cause vision issues. Astigmatism occurs when the curvature of the eye is irregularly shaped (hence my Trouble with the Curve connection). But the connection between baseball and astigmatism doesn’t end there for me.

It is not uncommon for some people to maintain good acuity on the Big-E Chart (i.e., 20/20 or better) but have undetected astigmatism that affects how they see in the real world. This can be an issue for people who have a high visual performance requirement, such as baseball players who need to be able to read and hit a curve ball. I have personally dealt with a number of amateur and professional baseball players who had undetected astigmatism, and when it was finally detected and treated, their batting averages improved dramatically.

Treatment for astigmatism includes creating better focus for the overall eye and a different level of focus at one angle, or axis. If you have glasses that include correction for astigmatism, you can easily see the change in focus at different angles in the lens. Hold the glasses in front of your eyes and rotate the lenses. As the lenses rotate, you will notice images coming in and out of focus. For contact lenses with astigmatism correction, there are normally marks on the lens to note the angle of the astigmatism correction. As an FYI, treatments that are used to correct astigmatism are referred to as toric, such as “toric” contact lenses.

Considerable investment has been made in new technologies to correct astigmatism. Recent developments have occurred in laser eye surgery techniques, monofocal IOLs, multifocal IOLs and contact lenses. We don’t yet have a great deal of additional information on Better Vision Guide on the topic of astigmatism, but be sure to check back for updates.

For more information on astigmatism, check out the American Optometric Association.