Have you ever visited the eye doctor with complaints about the quality of vision, and after their examination they informed you that you have a “refractive error?”

“In nature, nothing is perfect and everything is perfect.” – Alice Walker

In a perfect world, the light travels on a perfect path through the perfect cornea and perfect lens of your eye, focusing at the perfect spot on the retina at the back of your eye. Unfortunately, we have yet to see a “perfect” eye in one of our patients. Everyone has some degree of “imperfection” in their visual system. The good news is that most of these refractive errors can be easily helped with corrective lenses, either by prescription eyewear or contacts.

Common Refractive Errors

Because our eyes aren’t perfectly round, we all have a slightly imperfect bending of light through the eye and onto the retina. Presbyopia, Myopia, Hyperopia, and Astigmatism are the top four most common refractive errors seen in the optometrist office.


Presbyopia is a refractive error seen in nearly 100% of adults over the age of 40. As our bodies mature, our eyes gradually lose the ability to focus on objects that are near to us. Unfortunately, this is just a part of the natural maturing process, and it can’t be avoided.


Myopia is the medical term for “nearsightedness.” If you see things up close better than those that are farther away from you, you are “nearsighted” and your refractive error is myopia. Similar to an out-of-focus projector that is too far away from the screen, myopia causes blurry vision because the light entering the eye is inappropriately focused prematurely in front of the retina. To correct this refractive error, your eye doctor would prescribe a “minus lens.”



If you see things more clearly in the distance, your refractive error is most likely hyperopia. This occurs when the light bending through the eye would actually meet its ideal focus point behind the retina. To correct this refractive error, your eye doctor would prescribe appropriate “plus lenses.”



astThis particular refractive error is very commonly seen alongside the other refractive errors mentioned above. Light rays travel in all directions — light enters our eyes in vertical and horizontal directions, as well as every diagonal direction in between. With astigmatism, each direction of light focuses on the retina with a different prescription, resulting in some degree of blurriness at all distances because the eye can never find a perfect focus for all the different light rays.


Though the various refractive errors can sound daunting, there is a solution. Fortunately, corrective lenses can help ease the strain on our eyes with the help of prescription lenses or contacts, bifocals, multifocals, and progressive lenses. A thorough examination by one of the doctors at Primary Eyecare can help diagnose your particular refractive error, and we can provide solutions with prescription eyewear and contact lenses to correct these errors. Contact us today to request an appointment with one of our skilled optometrists!

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