What Are Refractive Errors?
Refractive errors happen when the shape of the eye causes light entering the eye to bend in such a way that it does not come to focus on the retina, which leads to blurry images. Common refractive errors include:
- Astigmatism — Normally, the cornea (the front surface of the eye) curves equally in all directions. Astigmatism occurs when the cornea curves more in one direction than others, resulting in wavy and blurred vision at all distances.
- Myopia — Also called nearsightedness, objects viewed close up are seen more clearly than those viewed at a distance.
- Hyperopia — Also called farsightedness. This is the opposite of myopia in that objects viewed close up would be blurrier than those viewed at a distance. However in reality in young people the eye can focus and often overcome the farsightedness. This ability degrades with time.
- Presbyopia — This condition occurs as the lenses in the eyes become less flexible with age. A person’s ability to focus at near lessens and he or she has a harder time seeing or reading things at close range. Presbyopia is a normal part of aging and may occur in conjunction with nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism.
An ophthalmologist can make a diagnosis during a routine eye exam. Common symptoms include:
- Blurry, hazy or double vision — This occurs as a result of the eye’s shape causing light entering the eye to bend incorrectly.
- Glare — Light entering the eyes may hamper vision, reducing contrast or sharpness of images.
- Halos — These often appear around headlights or other lights.
- Headaches — Straining the eyes to see more clearly can lead to headaches in some people.
- Squinting — Squinting allows people to slightly alter the eye’s shape, which may reduce blurry images.
Refractive errors are common and usually easily treated. Treatment options include:
- Eyeglasses or contact lenses — Prescription vision correction is most often recommended for refractive errors such as nearsightedness and farsightedness. Reading glasses work well for presbyopia.
- Refractive surgery — Two different types of surgery are available, with laser surgery being the most common. Laser refractive surgery permanently changes the shape of your cornea, essentially burning the glasses prescription into your eyes and improving the vision like permanent contact lenses. This surgery does not fix presbyopia.
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