Refractive errors are prevalent eye conditions that make your vision blurry. You'll need a new pair of glasses or contacts to restore your vision. Talk to your eye care specialist about vision correction surgery if you have a refractive error but don't want to wear corrective lenses.
Your eyes are like a relay team. The cornea, the clear part at the front of your eye, passes light to your retina. Your retina converts that light into electrical signals and sends them to your optic nerve, which sends them to your brain. Your brain then uses those signals to create the images you see.
There are a few types of refractive errors. Some may make it hard to focus your eyes on objects close to you, while others make objects faraway look blurry. No matter what type of refractive error, an eye care specialist can diagnose and treat you, they will thoroughly check your eyes and vision and prescribe a treatment to help you see again.
Most people with refractive errors have developed them over time as they grow if left untreated. Many refractive errors begin in childhood, but you can create a refractive error at any point in your life, even if you've never experienced any issues with your vision.
Visit an eye care specialist as soon as your vision changes or worsens. Even if you already wear corrective lenses like glasses or contact lenses, be sure you have your eyes examined regularly.
Types of Refractive Errors:
There are mainly four types of refractive errors.
1. Near-sightedness (Myopia)
Near-sightedness (widely known as Myopia) is a common eye condition that affects more than 30% of the global population. If you have this condition, you may not be able to see things clearly when they’re far away. For example, if you have near-sightedness, you might not be able to make out signs on the side of the road until they’re just a few feet away or right outside your car’s window.
Usually, near-sightedness occurs because your eye grows too long from front to back. Sometimes, near-sightedness occurs because your cornea or lens is too curved, it usually develops in kids when they’re around ten years old.
2. Far-sightedness (Hyperopia)
You might have far-sightedness if you're struggling to see things close.
Far-sightedness (Hyperopia) makes it hard to see objects close to you. It’s the opposite of Myopia. If you have far-sightedness, you might be able to read words on a screen on the other side of the room clearly, but will struggle to read notes you’re typing on the laptop that’s right in front of you. Your eye is growing too short from front to back, causing far-sightedness. Another cause is your cornea or lens not being curved enough, people with far-sightedness are usually born with it.
3. Age-related far-sightedness (Presbyopia)
Age-related far-sightedness (Presbyopia) is a specific type of far-sightedness that develops as you age. Like the far-sightedness that can affect anyone, presbyopia makes it hard to see things up close. It’s a common reason of people needing reading glasses as they age.Presbyopia develops when the lens of your eye becomes less flexible and can’t focus on objects as well as it used to, it usually develops with people of the age 40 onwards.
The best way to treat Presbyopia is with reading glasses or bifocals prescribed by an eye care professional, as these will make your vision clearer and help you see the world better without squinting or straining your eyes!
If you've ever been out with a friend and looked at something in the distance only to have that object appear blurred or fuzzy, it might well be the cause of Astigmatism.
Usually, our eyes are shaped round, but if you have Astigmatism, your vision is shaped like a rugby ball or the back of a spoon, making the light that enters your eyes bend and distort more than it should. Astigmatism can develop at any point in your life, some people are even born with it, where others don’t experience it until they are adults.
Symptoms of Refractive Errors:
The symptoms of a refractive error can be hard to tell apart from the symptoms of other eye conditions, like dry eye, or they can be mistaken for vision problems that aren't related to your eyes. If you notice any of these signs and symptoms in your child, it may be time to talk to your paediatrician or eye care specialist:
- Blurry vision either up close, at a distance or both.
- Double vision (Diplopia).
- Eye strain.
- Eye pain.
Causes of Refractive Errors
Changes in the shape of your cornea, lens or whole eye can cause refractive errors. This is why your type of refractive error depends on how your vision is shaped.
Ageing eyes can also develop a refractive error that wasn’t there when they were younger. This is usually due to changes in the shape of your eye as it ages – for example, if your cornea becomes thinner as you get older, it may cause Myopia.
Diagnosis of Refractive Errors
Refractive errors are diagnosed with a standard eye exam. An eye care specialist will look at your eyes (and will also take a close look inside them), and perform a visual acuity test. This will help determine which type of refractive error you have and how much it’s affecting your vision.
Treatments of Refractive Errors
Refractive errors are common, but there are many ways to treat them. The treatment that works best for you depends on your type of refractive error, as well as your lifestyle and personal preferences.
Treatments for refractive errors include:
- Contact lenses.
- Vision correction surgery such as LASIK and photorefractive keratectomy (PRK).
It's important to talk with an eye care professional with experience in treating refractive errors before you decide what kind of treatment is right for you.
Refractive errors are among the most common eye problems people experience. It doesn't matter which type of refractive error you have; your eye care specialist will work with you to find a treatment that will help you to see clearly again.
Even if you don't think your vision has changed that much at all, visit your eye care specialist regularly. Small changes in your eyes or vision could worsen an existing refractive error or create a new one.
If you notice your child suddenly squinting more, experiencing headaches, or getting worse grades on their schoolwork, they might have a refractive error and not know it’s treatable.
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