What is a Refractive Error? | R. Woodfall Opticians of London
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What is a Refractive Error?

When you attend an eye examination, we are generally looking at your vision capabilities to determine if there are any problems with your eyesight, as well as checking your eye health. Part of the eye test process is a refraction exam, where we identify if you need lenses to correct your vision.

If you do need corrective lenses, there is a chance you have a refractive error. Here we help you to understand what this means for your vision and what can be done to help it.

Types of refractive errors

There are three main types of refractive errors and they can impact your ability to see clearly if left uncorrected. Myopia, which is also known as short-sightedness or near-sightedness, is one of the most common vision problems around the world. 

Myopia typically begins around school-age children and can get progressively worse, until the eye stops growing. It’s usually caused by eyes that have are slightly longer than normal, causing the refracted light to focus just in front of the retina, instead of on it. It can make it much more difficult to see things at a distance, but your up-close vision will typically be clear.

Hypermetropia, or long-sightedness, is essentially the opposite of myopia in that you will struggle to see objects up close clearly. This is because your eyes may be too short, which means the light is focused behind the retina.

The third main type of refractive error is astigmatism, which is typically caused when the cornea or lens isn’t a normal shape. It’s usually present from birth.

How do you know if you have a refractive error?

All of these refractive errors are easily picked up during a routine eye test. However, you may notice some signs yourself. This can include having to squint more often, experiencing headaches or eye fatigue, as well as blurry vision either at a distance or up close.

A refraction test generally includes the familiar letter chart that you’ve no doubt seen before. You’ll be asked to read the smallest line that you can see from a distance of 6 metres, before we ask you to wear a series of trial frames to determine if any make your vision appear clearer.

This can help us to find the right corrective lenses to meet your needs, restoring your vision and helping you to see objects clearly again.

Why you should wear your corrective lenses

If refractive errors are left uncorrected, it can lead to a number of complications and eye conditions. This could include a squint, lazy eye, glaucoma and cataracts. So, if you need corrective lenses, it’s beneficial to your overall eye health to wear them.

It’s important if you drive frequently too, as the DVLA has minimum eyesight standards. You should be able to meet the standards with your corrective lenses in order to drive lawfully. 

If you’ve noticed any change in your vision, or you’re experiencing headaches or eye strain, it’s worth getting in touch to book an appointment for an eye test today.