Living With Astigmatism

Tips for dealing with glaring lights, halos, night driving, and more

Street light glare at night

 P. Lujan / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

In This Article

Astigmatism is a common vision problem that affects about 1 in 3 people. It occurs when the cornea or the lens of the eye has an irregularly shaped curvature. This prevents light from focusing evenly on the retina.

Astigmatism can cause blurry or distorted vision, headaches, and eyestrain. With astigmatism, you may see more glare around lights at night, which can cause difficulty driving. If you have been diagnosed with astigmatism, there are ways you can ease your symptoms and improve your night vision.

How Astigmatism Affects Vision

The cornea bends light and focuses it on the retina, the light sensitive surface at the back of your eye, which allows you to see. If you have astigmatism, the cornea or lens is irregularly shaped. Instead of a round surface, it may be shaped more like a football. This shape prevents light from focusing correctly on the retina, causing blurry and distorted vision. At night, your eyes dilate to let in more light, which causes problems with glare and halos around streetlights and headlights.

Some cases of astigmatism are mild enough that they don’t need any treatment. Moderate or severe cases usually require some treatment to see clearly, which may include glasses, contacts, or corrective surgery.

Focus on Your Vision

If you have problems with night vision or driving at night, talk to your optometrist or ophthalmologist. They can check to see if your problems are caused by astigmatism or some other eye condition. 

If you are diagnosed with astigmatism, your eye doctor may suggest the following strategies to treat it:

  • Toric or gas-permeable contacts: If you wear contacts and have at least moderate astigmatism, your doctor may suggest using either toric or gas permeable lenses. Toric contacts have varying refractive powers around the lens to correct astigmatism and a shape designed to keep it from rotating. A 2018 study tested 60 participants with astigmatism and found that their vision and eyestrain improved with toric contact lenses compared with spherical lenses. Gas-permeable lenses have also been found to improve vision for astigmatism. They have a rigid shape that can compensate for your eye’s irregular curvature.
  • Anti-glare coating for glasses: If you wear glasses, choose a pair with anti-reflective (anti-glare) coating. This coating decreases – and in some cases eliminates – unwanted glare, halos, and odd reflections that you may see at night.

Yellow-tinted glasses marketed for driving at night haven’t been found to be effective and could make your vision worse. A 2019 study found that yellow-lens night-driving glasses didn’t improve road visibility for participants or reduce headlight glare from other vehicles. The glasses are designed to reduce the light reaching the eye, which can actually make it harder to see at night.

  • Eyedrops: If you wear contact lenses, keep rewetting drops on hand, especially when driving at night. Dryness not only affects the comfort of your contact lenses, but it can affect your vision as well. If you wear soft toric lenses, they can rotate when your eyes get dry, which affects their clarity. You can find over-the-counter rewetting drops that are made specifically for gas permeable contact lenses or soft lenses. Look at the packaging to make sure it’s safe to use with your contact lenses. Check with your eye doctor if you’re not sure or need a recommendation.
  • Surgery: If you want to permanently correct an astigmatism, talk to your eye doctor about available surgical procedures. LASIK eye surgery can correct astigmatism by removing tissue from the inner layer of the cornea. If you aren’t a candidate for LASIK surgery, another option is PRK (photorefractive keratectomy), which reshapes the eye by removing tissue from the top and inner layers of the cornea.
  • Orthokeratology: Also called ortho-k, these rigid contacts help to reshape the cornea temporarily. The contacts are usually worn overnight and removed in the morning. They can correct for moderate astigmatism if worn on a regular basis. If you stop wearing the contacts, your eye shape will go back to its normal curvature.

Focus on Your Car

When driving at night, make sure that your car’s windows, mirrors, and headlights are clear. This can improve your view and reduce the chance of glare from lights. Some tips for improving your night-driving view:

  • Clean windshields, windows, and mirrors. To get the best view out of your windshield and other windows, remember to clean both sides of the glass. The inside of the window can also have fingerprints and smudges that can increase the glare from lights when driving at night. Wipe off your side mirrors and rearview mirror as well to make sure you can see clearly from all directions.
  • Maintain windshield wipers. When windshield wiper blades wear out, they can leave smudges and smears that make it harder to see out your front window. Make sure to replace the blades regularly, especially if you notice they’re not working well. Ideally you should replace them every six to 12 months.
  • Clean your headlights. Clean off the dirt from your car’s headlights to help illuminate your view of the road and what’s ahead. If your headlights are particularly cloudy, you may consider getting them professionally restored or buying a headlight-cleaning kit from an automotive parts store.
  • Use the night setting on your rearview mirror. This setting helps to reduce the glare from the headlights in the car behind you. The directions for how to do this will vary depending on the make and model of your car, so check your manual for instructions.

A Word From Verywell

To help improve your night vision, it’s important to get your eyes checked regularly by an optometrist or ophthalmologist. They can give you a complete exam to diagnose astigmatism or any other conditions that are making it hard to see at night. If your astigmatism gets worse between annual check-ups, make an appointment with your doctor to discuss different options for treatment.

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Article Sources
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