What Is a Refractive Error?

Published by Lance Kugler, MD on May 29, 2018

Blurry vision can be attributed to several causes, which are related to how the eye works and how it has developed. The eye is a complex system that translates light into images, but our eyes do not always work perfectly. Their exact size and shape affect how well they focus light. These differences can cause some of us to have vision that is unclear or unfocused. This poor vision quality caused by the eye’s structure is referred to as refractive error.

There are multiple types of common vision conditions resulting in refractive error, such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, and dysfunctional lens syndrome (DLS) stages 1 through 3.

Learn more about each common refractive error and how your vision can be corrected with refractive surgery (laser vision correction).

man with refractive error

Nearsightedness (Myopia)

You suffer from nearsightedness when nearby objects appear clear but objects viewed at a distance are blurry. You have a hard time focusing on an object or detail far away, or across the room.

Nearsightedness occurs when the cornea is too rounded or steep, or the eyeball is too long. To learn more about this refractive error, please watch the video below.

View Video

Nearsightedness is fairly common, and becoming moreso. Approximately 42 percent of Americans between the ages of 12 and 54 are nearsighted. This rate is up from 25 percent in 1971.

Farsightedness (Hyperopia)

You suffer from farsightedness when objects at a distance are clear, but objects up close are blurry. Farsightedness occurs when the cornea is too flat or the eye is too short, preventing light from properly lining up on the retina. To learn more about this refractive error, please watch the video below.

View Video

Farsightedness is not necessarily an age-related condition, and can affect both children and adults. Less common than nearsightedness, farsightedness affects around 5 to 10 percent of Americans. If your parents are farsighted, you may be more likely to develop farsightedness as well.


You suffer from astigmatism when light comes into your eye and is focused inconsistently, resulting in objects appearing stretched or distorted. Astigmatism occurs when the cornea has an irregular oval shape, and can occur simultaneously with nearsightedness or farsightedness. To learn more about this refractive error, please watch the video below.

View Video

Many people mistakenly believe that those with astigmatism cannot be helped by laser vision correction. This is not true. Today’s LASIK vision correction can safely and effectively treat nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. At Kugler Vision, Lance Kugler, MD, specializes in vector analysis for the treatment of astigmatism.

woman outside shopping

Dysfunctional Lens Syndrome (DLS) Stage 1 – Presbyopia

DLS stage 1 is the clinical term for the near vision changes that begins to affect us in our 40s and 50s. Over time, the eye’s natural lens becomes too stiff to effectively focus up close, resulting in print and other nearby objects appearing blurry. To learn more about this refractive error, please watch the video below.

View Video

If you’re suddenly experiencing near vision changes, it is normal to have questions. Though the near vision loss associated with DLS is frustrating, it is an entirely normal part of the aging process and affects all people – even those who have had vision correction like LASIK. If you have had LASIK in the past and are now experiencing DLS, it does not mean that your LASIK has “worn off.”

The effects of LASIK are permanent. LASIK corrects vision by changing the shape of the cornea, or the outer layer of the eye. Near vision loss from DLS is caused by changes to the eye’s lens, a completely different part of the eye. The good news is that there are excellent solutions for near vision loss. DLS stage 1 can be treated with a corneal inlay procedure or refractive lens exchange (RLE).

dad, mom, and child together

Refractive Surgery Corrects Refractive Errors

With today’s technology, laser vision correction can correct all of the refractive errors detailed above. And, with the fairly recent addition of revolutionary procedures like SMILE laser vision correction, clear vision is becoming more attainable than ever before – even for those who previously thought they were not candidates for laser vision correction.

Laser vision correction can correct:

  • Nearsightedness (myopia)
  • Farsightedness (hyperopia)
  • Astigmatism
  • DLS

To learn more about how refractive surgery can treat refractive errors, please watch the video below.

View Video

Are You a Candidate?

If you are experiencing one or more of these refractive errors, it’s time to schedule a vision correction consultation at Kugler Vision. We can help you achieve the clear and natural vision you deserve, so you can enjoy life to the fullest without the hassles of glasses and contacts. Call us at 402.558.2211 to ask questions or to schedule your consultation to find out which vision solution is right for your eyes.

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