Refractive Error: The Most Common Eye Problem
The most common eye problem is refractive error, which is often accompanied by astigmatism. Refractive error means that light doesn’t focus in the right spot on the eyes, causing blurred vision. This comes in two forms: nearsightedness (myopia) or being farsightedness (hyperopia).
Being nearsighted means that you can see things close to you and have a difficulty seeing objects at a distance, such as freeway signs or what the teacher writes on the board. Being farsighted means that you can see far away objects, but have difficulty seeing something up close, like the print on a book.
If you have astigmatism, it means that your eye is not the normal circular shape (think of a marble) that it should be. Instead, your eye is more oval than circular (think of an egg or a football). Astigmatism is caused by either an irregular shape of the cornea or an irregular curvature of the lens inside the eye.
If words blur together, you confuse similarly shaped letters such “B” and “E,” objects are blurred from any distance, or your vision gets worse after reading a text for a while, you very well may have astigmatism and should see an optometrist. The optometrist will then decide if your astigmatism or vision is bad enough to require glasses, contacts, or corrective surgery. Astigmatism cannot be corrected through normal lenses, and so a consult with your optometrist is needed to determine how you the vision correction will occur.
Sometimes you may develop slight farsightedness or nearsightedness while you are a child or teenager, but as you develop and move through puberty, your body may naturally change the shape of your eye, and correct your vision on its own, or it could worsen as you grow up. Glasses are good and keep some of the strain off of your eyes. However, corrective surgery should not be considered until you are through puberty for these reasons.
Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent refractive error or astigmatism, but through wearing glasses or contacts, almost any vision impairments can be corrected.
Reviewed by PAMF Department of Optometry