I love fantasy, I love gaming, and I love Dungeons and Dragons. You’ve probably heard a lot about the game, at this point; it’s embedded itself deep within the culture consciousness because nerds like me started to write television shows. The game has three key pillars on which it’s built: exploration, social interaction and combat. The third pillar is considered by some the most important, and the combat is focused on monsters, which are grouped into various types. There are humanoids, giants, plants, fey, beasts, dragons, and more. Some monsters seem to defy the laws of physics, like the Beholder, a floating sphere of flesh with one large central eye and a bunch of eyestalks. It has a “little brother” type monster, the Spectator, a smaller floating flesh sphere with fewer eyestalks. Spectators serve Beholders, and the strange monsters are classified as “Aberrations”; you might say that Beholders are the higher-order Aberrations.

Higher-order aberrations don’t just exist in the eyes of a Beholder, though; they’re a real ocular problem. You’re already a spectator of lower-order aberrations, even if you didn’t know it; nearsighted and farsighted people have lower-order ocular aberrations, as do people with astigmatism. Any deviation from normal vision can be considered an aberration; the shape of our eyes can distort light in quite a number of different ways. The more complex the distortion of light, the higher order the aberration.

Recent developments have given optometrists access to tools that can measure the waveform of light passing through the eye, making it easier to detect higher-order aberrations. New surgeries and contact lenses that alter the shape of the cornea can improve vision for sufferers of higher-order aberrations. The symptoms of these aberrations can vary pretty wildly, as can the waveform patterns of light, but typical symptoms include halo effects, blurring, starburst, ghost images and other strange optical effects.

Higher-order aberrations can be caused by a variety of conditions. The most obvious is that the curvature of the eye is abnormal; this is due primarily to genetics, and can occur over the course of development. They can also be caused due to trauma of the eye, as well as larger than normal pupils. Now that technology to monitor waveforms of light is available, the medical community will be able to learn a great deal more about higher-order aberrations, their causes, and the best methods to treat them.

You might have glasses that are helping you see better, but if you’re still experiencing blur or other strange optical effects, a higher-order aberration might be the cause. The eyeglasses Winnipeg optometrists can provide will help with lower-order problems, but a more significant aberration may need further treatment. That’s why it’s important to talk to your optometrist if you have any chronic visual abnormalities, and why it’s important to get an eye exam done at least once every two years.