In Focus: What Is Refractive Error?

As we expand our ‘in focus’ series, we’re answering the question “what is refractive error?”.

Our ‘in focus’ series also covers glaucomacataracts diabetic retinopathy and, age-related macular degeneration.

Did you know that refractive error is responsible for 39% of the 2 million people living with sight loss in the UK?

What is refractive error?

Refractive error is the name for a number of eye disorders that are the result of irregular eye shapes.

When light enters your eyes, the shape of your eye may prevent the light from focussing on your retina correctly.

So, the information that your brain receives may lack clarity, or your brain may work harder to correct the image.

As a result, you may experience some symptoms.

Types of refractive error

There are four types of refractive error:

⚫️ Myopia, or nearsightedness, makes it difficult to see objects far away.

⚫️ Hyperopia, or shortsightedness, makes it difficult to see objects close-up.

⚫️ Astigmatism can distort your eyesight for objects both far and near.

⚫️ Presbyopia can make it difficult to read or see detail. However, presbyopia develops with age and usually affects people over 40.

Symptoms of refractive error

There are several symptoms of the condition, and you may experience some or all symptoms, or none at all.

⚫️ Blurry vision may make it difficult to see objects both near or far (or both).

⚫️ You may experience headaches as your eyes are working harder to focus and adjust.

⚫️ Your eyes may feel tired or strained as a result of trying so hard to focus.

⚫️ You may squint your eyes as your eyes are working hard to focus.

You may not necessarily realise that you are experiencing these symptoms at the time.

However, as some of the symptoms can indicate other eye conditions or general health conditions, you mustn’t self-diagnose.

You should attend your regular sight test to monitor these symptoms or treat any refractive error.

Do you know how often you should have a sight test?

Treating the condition

The treatment to manage refractive error includes wearing glasses, contact lenses or corrective surgery.

However, uncorrected refractive error (i.e. wearing the wrong glasses or an old prescription) means vision will remain poor.

That’s why it’s vital to wear your glasses or contact lenses if you need them!

As a result, you can help to avoid bumps and falls, ensure you can see the world around you clearly and prevent feelings of isolation.

You can keep your prescription up-to-date by attending your regular sight test and updating your glasses as advised by your optician.

If you have any concerns, you should speak to your optician.

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