Understanding Refractive Errors and Your Treatment Options

When an eye care provider mentions ‘refractive errors’ this is a reference to one of 3 conditions affecting the eye that cause a need for glasses’. There are several solutions to these conditions, all of which cause blurry vision. Glasses, contact lenses and surgeries, such as LASIK can be used, and are discussed elsewhere on this site.

What are the 3 forms of Refractive Error?

Myopia, also known as nearsightedness, is the most well known error. Hyperopia, or farsightedness is the second, and Astigmatism is the third (and most misunderstood!) of the refractive errors.

  • Myopia
    Myopic patients are ‘nearsighted’, meaning that they can see up close without glasses, but need them to see distance. These patients possess eyes that are too long (axial myopia) or have corneas that are too steeply curved. The end-result is that light focuses inside the eye, in front of the retina.
  • Hyperopia
    Patients whose eyes are too short, or who have cornea’s that are too flat. They can usually focus light on the retina until they are in their 40’s. They may need reading glasses earlier than other patients.
  • Astigmatism
    Astigmatism seems very mysterious, and many patients think that it is a rare disease, difficult to treat, and leading to poor vision. In fact, astigmatism is not much more difficult to deal with than the other refractive errors. Patients who have astigmatism have an unusual shape to the cornea. It is shaped more like a football instead of round like a basketball. This creates 2 points of focus inside the eye.

Treatment of Refractive Error

Whether a patient is myopic, hyperopic or astigmatic, treatment is available.

  • Glasses
    Glasses can be used to correct all of these problems, safely unless extreme levels of these problems are present.
  • Contact Lenses
    Contact lenses can correct these errors too, although extremes of these problems may not be easy to correct, and astigmatism can create problems with fitting contact lenses
  • Surgery
    LASIKPRKImplantable Contact Lenses, IOL’s and Toric IOL’s can all be used to correct varying degrees of these problems as well. Sometimes combinations are needed to completely correct these refractive errors.