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Refractive Errors of the Eye


  • Refractive (re-FRAK-tiv) errors of the eye, also called errors of refractions or EOR, are common eye disorders causing blurring. This occurs when there is a problem in the refraction (bending) of light in the eye. The shape and texture of the cornea and lens may be abnormal. When this happens, the cornea and lens fail to bend and focus the light directly on the retina. This may cause different types of EOR which include astigmatism, presbyopia, hyperopia, and myopia. Astigmatism is having an uneven (not smooth) and curved cornea, while presbyopia happens when the lens becomes stiff. Hyperopia is when the eyeball is too short or the cornea is slightly flat or less curved. Myopia , the opposite of hyperopia, occurs when eyeball is too long or the cornea is too curved or rounded.
    Picture of a normal eye
  • Depending on the type of EOR, you may have different signs and symptoms. The most common symptom of EOR is seeing blurred images. Sometimes, you may have trouble recognizing faces or things around you. You may rub, shut or cover your eye, squint, or tilt or turn your head frequently. You may also have eyestrain, headache, or fatigue (getting tired more easily). Eye tests, including a visual acuity test, may be needed to diagnose EOR. Diagnosing and treating EOR as soon as possible, may improve your vision and improve your quality of life.


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.


Treatment for EOR may have some unpleasant side effects and carry some risks. Wearing eyeglasses or contact lenses may feel awkward or uncomfortable. Eye medicines may cause irritation, redness of the skin, or headaches. You may have bleeding, infection, or loss of vision during or after refractive surgery. Even after treatment, your EOR may return or become worse. If EOR is not treated, you may continue having trouble seeing things clearly or become blind permanently. This may prevent you from doing your usual activities, such as reading or driving. Your health, quality of life, and ability to function may decrease without treatment. Ask your caregiver if you are worried or have questions about your eye disorder, treatment, or care.


Informed consent:

A consent form is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.


You may need any of the following:

  • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to help treat or prevent an infection caused by bacteria.
  • Eye medicines: Your caregiver may give you eye drops or ointments to help you see better. These may include treating problems with the eye muscles or problems focusing. These may also slow down the worsening of EOR or ease eye symptoms, such as swelling, redness, or irritation.
  • Pain medicine: Caregivers may give you medicine to take away or decrease your pain.
    • Do not wait until the pain is severe to ask for your medicine. Tell caregivers if your pain does not decrease. The medicine may not work as well at controlling your pain if you wait too long to take it.
    • Pain medicine can make you dizzy or sleepy. Prevent falls by calling a caregiver when you want to get out of bed or if you need help.


You may need any of the following:

  • Blood tests: You may need blood taken to give caregivers information about how your body is working. The blood may be taken from your hand, arm, or IV.
  • Cover-uncover test: This test checks if your eyes are aligned. An object is placed at a certain distance far away from you while your one eye is covered. Your caregiver carefully looks at the uncovered eye for any movement.
  • Test for fixation: One eye is covered while your caregiver moves a small flashlight in front of you. This checks how well your uncovered eye follows the light. He repeats the test on the other eye and compares the results.
  • Refraction test: This test checks the lens of your eyes. You will be asked to look at a chart through a device that has lenses of different strengths. You will be asked if the words or picture is clear as he changes the lenses.
  • Visual acuity test: Your visual acuity (ability to see clearly) may also be checked using charts with letters, pictures, and shapes. Your caregiver may ask you to read special eye charts placed farther down the room from you. These charts help your caregiver check how well you see colors, lines, and at different distances. There are special charts that can be used for those who cannot read or speak yet.

Treatment options:

You may need any of the following depending on the type of EOR or lifestyle you have:

  • Corrective lenses: Caregivers may suggest that you wear corrective lenses to help light rays to focus correctly. This may correct problems with the curves and length of your eye.
    • Contact lenses: These are small, soft, round pieces of plastic put over your eyes. You may choose to wear soft, extended wear, disposable, rigid gas-permeable (RGP) or bifocal contact lenses. Bifocals are a combination of a lower lens for close vision and an upper lens for distance vision.
    • Eyeglasses: Glasses are simple and easy devices to correct EOR. You may use single-vision reading glasses, bifocals, trifocals, or progressive lenses.
  • Refractive surgery: You may need surgery to reshape the curve of your cornea. There are different available types of refractive surgery to treat EOR. Your vision may be corrected by using laser, a high-energy light that does not produce heat. Your caregiver may also place special tiny plastic rings into the cornea. Ask your caregiver for more information on refractive surgery.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Refractive Errors of the Eye (Inpatient Care)

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