Astigmatism Lights: Effects on Night Vision and Solutions

Jul 04, 2024 | 5 min read

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With astigmatism, lights often look blurry, streaky, or haloed, especially at night. This condition arises from an irregularly shaped cornea or lens, making proper management crucial for clear vision and safe driving in low-light conditions.

astigmatism lights

What is Astigmatism?

Astigmatism is a common eye condition that affects how you see. It occurs when the cornea or lens of your eye has an irregular shape. Normally, the cornea and lens are smooth and curved equally in all directions. This helps light to focus properly on the retina at the back of your eye. 

However, if you have astigmatism, the cornea or lens is curved more in one direction than another. This irregular shape prevents light from focusing correctly, causing blurred vision.

According to the AAO, astigmatism is quite common and affects about 1 in 3 people in the United States. Some people are born with it, while others develop it over time.

Astigmatism vs. Normal Vision

Types of Astigmatism

  • Corneal astigmatism: Occurs when the cornea, the clear front surface of the eye, is misshapen.
  • Lenticular astigmatism: This happens when the lens, which is inside the eye, is irregularly shaped.

Both types can cause similar vision problems, but they occur in different parts of the eye.

Common Symptoms

  • Blurry vision
  • Distorted vision (both near and distant)
  • Eye strain
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty seeing at night
  • Squinting
  • Fatigue or discomfort after prolonged visual tasks
  • Frequent changes in vision prescription

If you notice these symptoms, it's important to get your eyes checked by a professional.

For those looking to understand their symptoms better, consider using an online tool like the Symptom Checker. This tool allows you to identify potential conditions based on your symptoms. However, it's important to remember that online tools are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult a professional before taking any action.

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How Does Astigmatism Affect Vision?

Astigmatism affects both near and distant vision. Whether reading a book or seeing a street sign, objects might appear blurry or stretched, making daily activities like reading, driving, and using a computer challenging.

The impact of astigmatism on night vision is more pronounced. At night, your pupils dilate to let in more light, aiding vision in low-light conditions. For people with astigmatism, this dilation increases light scattering due to the irregular cornea or lens, leading to more noticeable visual distortions and glare. This scattering effect is heightened at night, causing blurry lights, halos, and starbursts, making clear vision difficult.

In contrast, individuals without astigmatism focus light correctly on a single point on the retina, maintaining clear vision even at night. This difference explains why those with astigmatism often have worse night vision and struggle with tasks like night driving.

Lights and Astigmatism: What Do People See?

People with astigmatism often experience several types of visual distortions, especially at night. Here are some of the most common ones:

  • Blurry and Fuzzy Lights: Lights may appear out of focus and lack sharpness. This can make it hard to see things clearly, especially in dim lighting and during nighttime.
  • Streaky Lights: Lights can seem to have streaks coming off them, like lines radiating from a central point. This can be particularly distracting when looking at bright lights such as car headlights or street lamps at night.
  • Halos Around Lights: You might see rings or halos around lights. These halos can make it challenging to distinguish objects, especially when driving at night.
  • Starburst Patterns: Lights can appear to have rays or bursts coming out from them, similar to the shape of a star. This can cause significant glare and make it hard to focus on the road or other objects, particularly in nighttime conditions.

These visual distortions can be more than just annoying. They can impact your safety, particularly when driving at night or in low-light conditions. 

lights at night with astigmatism

Astigmatism vs. Normal Vision

Aspect Normal Vision Astigmatism Vision
Light Appearance Lights appear as single, clear points Lights appear blurry and fuzzy
Additional Patterns No additional lines or patterns around the lights Streaky lines radiate from the light source
Halos No halos around lights Halos or rings surround lights, making them harder to distinguish
Starburst Patterns No starburst patterns Starburst patterns with rays emanate from lights, causing significant glare
Overall Vision Vision remains sharp and focused, even at night Vision is distorted, especially at night

These photos show an example of the difference between normal vision and astigmatism:

Astigmatism Lights vs. Normal Vision

Managing Astigmatism

Driving at night with astigmatism can be challenging due to visual distortions. It's important to get a proper diagnosis from an eye doctor to determine the best way to manage your astigmatism:

Corrective Lenses

One of the most effective ways to manage astigmatism is by using corrective lenses.

Prescription Eyeglasses with Anti-Reflective Coating

  • These glasses help correct the way light bends into your eye, reducing blurriness and glare.
  • The anti-reflective coating minimizes reflections from headlights and streetlights, making it easier to see at night.

Toric Contact Lenses for Astigmatism

  • Designed specifically for astigmatism, these lenses correct the irregular curvature of the cornea or lens.
  • They offer a clear and comfortable vision, helping you see more clearly during nighttime driving.

Advanced Treatments

For those looking for more permanent solutions, advanced treatments are available:

LASIK Eye Surgery

  • LASIK is a laser eye surgery that reshapes the cornea to correct astigmatism.
  • It offers a long-term solution and can significantly improve night vision.
  • According to the FDA, you may still need glasses or contact lenses after LASIK surgery, even if your pre-surgery prescription was weak. Additionally, if you used reading glasses before surgery, you may still need them afterward.


  • This treatment involves wearing rigid contact lenses overnight to temporarily reshape the cornea.
  • According to the AOA, orthokeratology does not provide a permanent vision correction. If patients stop wearing the retainer lenses, their vision may revert to its original state.

Practical Tips for Driving at Night with Astigmatism

In addition to corrective lenses and advanced treatments, adopting certain daily habits can help improve your night driving experience.

  • Keep Glasses and Windshields Clean: Smudges and dirt on glasses and windshields can exacerbate glare and blurriness. Regular cleaning ensures optimal visibility.
  • Adjust Car Mirrors to Reduce Glare: Properly adjusting your rearview and side mirrors can minimize the glare from headlights behind you.
  • Reduce Dashboard Brightness: Dimming the dashboard lights can reduce reflections on the windshield, helping you focus better on the road.
  • Take Regular Breaks to Rest Eyes: Eye strain can worsen vision problems. Taking breaks helps reduce fatigue and maintain better night vision.

When to Seek Professional Help

Knowing when to seek professional help is essential for managing astigmatism and maintaining good vision. Here are some signs that you might need new or adjusted corrective measures:

  • Increased Blurriness or Distortion: If your vision becomes increasingly blurry or distorted, it may be time for a new prescription.
  • Frequent Headaches or Eye Strain: Persistent headaches or eye strain can indicate that your current correction is not adequate.
  • Difficulty with Night Vision: Struggling to see at night despite using corrective lenses may require a reassessment by your eye doctor.

Regular eye exams are crucial for monitoring astigmatism and ensuring your corrective measures are up to date. They help detect any changes in your vision early.

Choose a qualified eye care professional who specializes in treating astigmatism. They can provide personalized advice and the most effective treatment options.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Astigmatism significantly alters how lights are perceived, causing distortions like blurriness, streaks, halos, and starbursts. These visual disturbances are especially pronounced at night, making tasks like driving more challenging compared to those with normal vision. Understanding these differences is crucial for managing astigmatism effectively and improving overall vision quality.

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