Refractive disorder

By Medically reviewed by hellodoktor


What is refractive disorder?

Refractive disorders (refractive errors), light rays entering the eye are not focused on the retina, causing blurred vision.

Normally, the eye creates a clear image because the cornea and lens bend (refract) incoming light rays to focus them on the retina. The shape of the cornea is fixed, but the lens changes shape to focus on objects at various distances from the eye.

By becoming more rounded, the lens allows near objects to be focused. By becoming flatter, the lens allows objects farther away to be focused. When the cornea and lens cannot focus the image of an object sharply on the retina, it is called a refractive error.

How common is refractive disorder?

People who get over age 35 have higher risk of refractive disorders. These can affect both children and adults. It seems that individuals that have parents with certain refractive disorders may be more likely to get one or more refractive disorders.  Please discuss with your doctor for further information.


What are the symptoms of refractive disorder?

The common symptoms of this condition are:

  • Their vision is blurred for distant objects, near objects, or both. For example, a child who becomes nearsighted may have difficulty seeing the chalkboard in school.
  • People may sometimes have headaches caused by squinting or frowning
  • In children, frowning when reading and excessive blinking or rubbing of the eyes may indicate the child has a refractive disorder
  • Occasionally, when a person stares for a long time trying to read something, the eyes can dry out and become itchy, red, or irritated, and vision seems temporarily blurred

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs listed above or questions, please consulting with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.


What causes refractive disorder?

There are several causes of refractive disorders, include:

Nearsightedness (myopia)

It occurs when the eyeball is too long for the refractive power of the cornea and lens. Because of the relatively long size, light is focused in front of (rather than directly on) the retina, and the person has trouble clearly seeing distant objects.

Farsightedness (hyperopia)

This condition occurs in some people when the eyeball is too short for the refractive power of the cornea and lens. Because of the relatively short size, light is focused behind the retina. Thus, as farsighted adults age, seeing near objects clearly becomes more difficult and seeing distant objects also becomes more difficult. Blurring of nearby objects is worse in dim light.


This is an imperfectly shaped cornea or lens (not perfectly round or spherical), which may cause objects to appear blurred at any distance.


This condition can occur as people age. As people reach their early or mid 40s, the lens becomes increasingly stiff. The lens does not change shape easily, so it cannot focus on nearby objects.


This is the absence of a lens resulting from a birth defect, eye injury, or eye surgery for removal of a cataract. If a person has had a lens removed to treat cataracts but has not had a lens implant, objects look blurred at any distance.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for refractive disorder?

There are many risk factors for this condition, such as:

  • Adults who get over age 35, especially presbyopia. Other refractive disorders can affect both children and adults
  • Individuals that have parents with certain refractive disorders may be more likely to get one or more refractive disorders.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is refractive disorder diagnosed?

If your doctor suspects that you may experience this condition, an eye examination will be performed.

During the examination, an eye chart is used to determine sharpness of vision (visual acuity). Visual acuity is measured in relation to what a person with normal (unimpaired) vision sees. For example, a person with 20/60 vision sees at 20 feet (about 6 meters) what a person with normal vision sees at 60 feet (about 18 meters). In other words, the person must be 20 feet away to read letters that a person with normal vision can read from 60 feet away. Although refractive disorder usually occur in otherwise healthy eyes, testing generally also includes assessments unrelated to refractive error, such as a test of the visual fields, eye pressures, and eye movements.

How is refractive disorder treated?

Depending on the severity of your condition, the healthcare provider will recommend you some treatment options, include:

  • Eyeglasses
  • Contact lenses
  • Surgery
  • The usual treatment for refractive errors is to wear eyeglasses or contact lenses (corrective lenses). However, certain surgical procedures and laser treatments that change the shape of the cornea also can correct refractive disorders.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage refractive disorder?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with this condition:

  • Everyone should have regular eye examinations by an ophthalmologist (an eye doctor) or an optometrist (a health care practitioner who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of refractive disorders).
  • Eye examination should be repeated every 1 or 2 years. Screening children helps detect refractive errors before they interfere with learning.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Review Date: August 29, 2017 | Last Modified: September 13, 2019

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