Refractive Error Myopia Hyperopia Presbyopia Astigmatism

Over half the Australian population uses some form of vision correction, and nearly everyone will require some vision correction at some time during their life.

The most common eye problems are refractive errors such as myopia (short-sightedness), hyperopia (long-sightedness), presbyopia (inability to focus at near with age) and astigmatism (blur usually due to non spherical corneal shape).

In refractive errors the image of the object a person is looking at is not focussed properly onto the retina (the light-sensitive tissue in the back of the eye).

For perfectly clear vision, the image of a viewed object needs to be focussed onto the retina, just as a camera has to be focussed properly in order to take a clear picture. If the image is not focussed exactly on the retina, then the image will be blurred, just like an out-of-focus photograph. If this is the case, then that person is said to have refractive error.

Refractive errors occur when there is a mismatch between the length of the eye and its optical power. These mismatches usually originate during childhood when the eyes are growing.

The exact causes of refractive errors are still being studied, but it is known that both hereditary and environmental influences can affect their development.

Most people have some refractive error and if the error is small then it may not cause any problems. However, when the refractive error increases and hence image blur increases then correction is required, most commonly in the form of spectacles or contact lenses. There are also surgical techniques (such as LASIK) which can be used to correct refractive errors, although these options are generally more expensive, have greater risk and may not be as long lasting as expected.

If you are experiencing some image blur or difficulty focussing then it is wise to see your optometrist for a full examination.

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