Refractive error

Portrait of two children smiling. The image is blurry and out of focus to illustrate the impact of refractive error on vision.

Refractive error is a common eye disorder that occurs when the eye cannot clearly focus on the images of objects looked at.

There are different types of refractive errors. For example, being ‘short-sighted’, ‘long-sighted’ or needing glasses to read as we get older (known as presbyopia) are common types of refractive errors.

Symptoms may include blurred vision when looking into the distance or close up, some or all of the time. Some people may experience eye strain, fatigue, headaches or reduced concentration. Changes in vision are gradual. They are often not noticed until having an eye test.

Refractive error can affect people of all ages. People with a family history of refractive error are more at risk. Presbyopia is more common in people aged over 40. All types of refractive error can change over time.

Eye health professionals will usually prescribe glasses or contact lenses to correct and improve vision. Laser surgery is an option but not suitable for everyone.

Regular eye tests will detect refractive error or any changes over time, and ensure your glasses or contact lenses offer the best level of correction.

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