Refractive errors (myopia, presbyopia, hyperopia, astigmatism)

What is a refractive error?

Put simply, refractive errors are difficulties in the ability of your eyes to focus. The most common symptom is blurry vision, but can also include headaches, eye strain and squinting.

Refractive errors are extremely common – in fact, most people will develop one over the age of 40. For example, age related short-sightedness happens when it becomes difficult to focus at close distances.

The good news is refractive errors are easy to treat with glasses or contact lenses.

Myopia (short sightedness)

A condition of the eye where the incoming light doesn’t directly focus on the retina, but in front of it. The result is that distant objects appear out of focus, whereas close objects are in focus. Short-sightedness commonly develops in childhood and often gets worse for a few years. It is becoming more common.

Hyperopia (long sightedness)

This refractive disorder means that it’s easier to see objects in the distance than up close. A common example is difficulty reading a menu in a restaurant or when trying to focus on the print in a newspaper. Hyperopia can be caused by an insufficiently curved cornea, the eye is too short or a combination of both.

Presbyopia (Age related near vision loss)

This occurs in all adults, usually aged 45 or older. It’s the natural aging process of the lens inside the eye, which results in near vision becoming blurry, while the long vision is unaffected.


Astigmatism can cause blurred vision due to the inability of the eye to focus clearly on a point. It is a refractive error caused by an asymmetrical curve of the cornea. Ask your optometrist about the different types of astigmatism.

Diagnosing a refractive error

An eye test with your optometrist will be able to diagnose any of these conditions.

Treating a refractive error

Any of these disorders are usually corrected by glasses or contact lenses.

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