How to Manage Refractive Errors

Refractive errors are vision problems that make it difficult to see clearly. They happen when the shape of your eye prevents light from focusing correctly on your retina. Refractive errors are the most common type of vision problem, affecting 150 million Americans. They are also easily corrected with glasses or contact lenses.

If your ophthalmologist recently told you that you have a refractive error, you probably want to know more about what this means and how to manage it. Fortunately, refractive errors are easy to correct, as long as they are diagnosed early enough.

Types of Refractive Errors

Your eye doctor will tell you what type of refractive error you have. Even though they are treated in the same way, you will need a certain prescription to correct your vision. There are four main types of refractive errors:

  • Nearsightedness (myopia) makes it difficult to see objects far away.
  • Farsightedness (hyperopia) makes it hard to see objects nearby.
  • Astigmatism makes it hard to see both nearby and far-away objects.
  • Presbyopia is common in middle-age and older adults and makes it hard to see things up close.

Treatments for Refractive Errors

Eye doctors can treat refractive errors in a number of ways. Glasses and contacts are the easiest and least invasive way to correct vision problems, but you can also consider surgery. Let’s learn more about each option.


Glasses are a safe and effective way to help you see better. Your eye doctor will prescribe the right eyeglasses to give you the clearest vision. It’s recommended to update your glasses every 1-3 years. Seeing your ophthalmologist regularly will help you keep on top of your prescription.

Contact Lenses

Contact lenses sit on the surface of your eyes to correct refractive errors. Your eye doctor will fit you for the right contact lenses, as there are many types and brands available. It’s important that you keep your lenses clean to reduce the risk of infection.

Some of the options your eye specialist will discuss with you are:

  • Soft lenses
  • Hard lenses
  • Daily wear
  • Extended wear
  • Single-use
  • Reusable


Surgery for refractive errors can change the shape of your cornea to fix refractive errors. Some people prefer to have the surgery done so that they don’t have to wear glasses or contacts. The most popular type of surgery is laser eye surgery, which uses a beam of light to change your cornea’s shape and make your vision sharper.

In order for laser eye surgery to work, your vision must be stable. Other options to discuss with your ophthalmologist are LASEK (laser epithelial keratomileusis), EpiLasik, phakic intraocular lens (IOL) implantation and photorefractive keratectomy (PRK).

Be sure to discuss all of your options with your eye doctor to determine what is the best treatment for you!