Do you have the “stigma”? Want to know what astigmatism really means?

In this particular episode of Ask an Eye Doc, you will learn:

  • What is astigmatism
  • What’s up with the football analogy

This episode will make more sense if you have already listened to the following episodes:

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If you have another question about eye color or any other eye-related question, go to to be featured on Ask an Eye Doc!

For you readers out there, here’s the answer in written form:

This is one of the most common questions patients ask me on a daily basis. The answer is easy: astigmatism means your eyes are shaped like a football!

Still scratching your head?! I don’t blame you. While the football analogy is a good one, it still tends to confuse people when it’s not given in the proper context.

I have patients who tell me they know they have “a stigmatism” and have even worn contact lenses for astigmatism for years, but still have no idea what it is. Here’s what I say to make the lightbulb go off in their head:

Astigmatism is the type of prescription you have based on the shape of the front part of your eye, the cornea.

(If you don’t know what a cornea is, it’s the first thing your finger would touch if you poked yourself in the eye. It’s the part of your eye that a contact lens sits on).

The cornea could be shaped like a basketball, so that if you were to spin it from any angle it would have the same curvature. This would be a spherical shape.

If your cornea were shaped more like a football, it would have a steep curve in one direction (let’s say up and down) and a flatter curve in the other direction (side to side). This would be a cylindrical shape.

Because of the difference in curvature, you have two prescriptions. No, I’m not talking about bifocals. I’m saying you have two distance prescriptions… one vertical and one horizontal… to match the two curves of your cornea.

And that is astigmatism!


If you found this episode to be helpful, be sure to leave a 5-star review on iTunes or consider supporting the show at
If you have another question about astigmatism or any other eye-related condition, go to to be featured on Ask an Eye Doc.
AAED 1: What is astigmatism?
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