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Refractive Errors

Refractive errors are vision problems that happen because light does not fall properly on the retina (light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye).

Your vision depends on the bending of light rays as they pass through the different parts of the eye. In perfect vision, light focuses on the retina, where it is converted into messages to be sent through the optic nerve to the brain. Refractive errors occur because of differences in the shape of the eyeball or cornea (the clear, dome-like layer on the front of the eye) or because of aging of the lens.

Types of refractive errors include:

  • Myopia (nearsightedness). Nearby objects are in clear focus, but distant objects are blurry. This condition occurs when light focuses in front of the retina rather than on it.
  • Hyperopia (farsightedness). Distant objects are clear, but near objects appear blurred. Light focuses past the retina rather than on it. Severe hyperopia can cause objects both near and far to be blurry.
  • Astigmatism (distorted vision). Objects at any distance appear blurry because of an uneven curve in the lens or cornea. Light does not focus evenly on the retina.
  • Presbyopia (aging eyes). Focusing on close objects is difficult because the lens loses its ability to flex. Presbyopia affects nearly everyone over age 40. The other refractive errors occur in both children and adults and may run in families.

In addition to blurred vision, refractive errors can cause symptoms including:

  • Eye strain
  • Squinting
  • Headaches
  • Haziness
  • Double vision
  • Halos around lights

Refractive errors are a common cause of vision problems, and they can be unsettling when they first develop. Fortunately, many options are available for correcting these errors. You do not have to live with significant eyesight limitations caused by refractive errors. Our goal is to help you see as well as possible so that you can participate in productive and enjoyable activities.

The right treatment for you depends on the specific problem you have and many other factors, including your age and personal preferences. We evaluate your condition with a comprehensive dilated exam and then thoroughly explain your options for achieving better vision. We provide treatment that not only corrects your refractive errors, but also fits with your lifestyle and goals.

At Indiana University Health, our ophthalmologists offer the most advanced options for diagnosing and treating refractive errors. In addition to eyeglasses and contact lenses, corrective surgery may be a possibility. This type of procedure may reduce or eliminate your need for glasses or contacts.

Additionally, the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Eye Institute is part of the highly ranked Indiana University School of Medicine. Our ophthalmologists are active in providing medical education and conducting scientific research as well as delivering high-quality patient care.

How We Can Help

How We Can Help

Refractive Errors Treatment Information

If you have one or more refractive errors, you may be able to choose between nonsurgical and surgical correction approaches.

Nonsurgical treatments include:

Surgical treatments include:


Refractive Errors Locations & Physicians

Use the search options below to find treatments available in your area. 

Find a Specialist

Enter a Zip Code to find a specialist at IU Health.


Refractive Errors Support Services

The more you understand about refractive errors, the better equipped you will be to work with your ophthalmologist on a treatment plan. Learn more at these websites: