A refractive error refers to an issue where light cannot be accurately focused on the retina because of the shape of a person’s eye. Commonly resulting in a blurred image, there are multiple forms of refractive errors, but the more commonly known problems include Myopia, Hyperopia, Presbyopia, and Astigmatism. Abernethy Owens is one of Perth’s  trusted independent Optometrists, and we are equipped to provide all aspects of Optometry including diagnostic imaging, general eye examinations, Dry Eye treatment and Myopia control. Read on to learn more about the most common refractive errors experienced by Australians.

Myopia (near-sightedness or short-sightedness)

Usually inherited and often discovered in childhood, Myopia is generally characterized by an eye that is too long in axial length from the front to back, or where the cornea has more curvature than normal resulting in too much focusing power. Myopia often progresses throughout  a child’s younger and teenage years when the body is growing rapidly. People who are myopic see near objects more clearly than distant objects, with distant objects appearing out of focus and often causing headaches and/or eye strain.

Treatment – prescription eyeglasses or contact lenses with a negative or minus lens can be prescribed to correct standard or non-progressive myopia. When detected in children or teenagers, then close monitoring is required to determine whether there is any myopic progression so that early intervention can be discussed. Myopia control can be achieved through many different treatment plans and will be catered to the individual child. It is an important intervention tool to slow or stop the progression of myopia in children, and lower their risk of debilitating eye diseases later in life.

Hyperopia (far-sightedness or long-sightedness)

With this refractive error, rays of light from a distant object are brought to focus behind the eye because the eye is either too short in axial length from the front to back, or because the refractive power of the eye is too weak. In mild Hyperopia, distance vision is clear while near vision is blurry. In more advanced Hyperopia, vision can be blurred at all distances.

Treatment – Correction can be achieved with positive or plus lenses which adjust the focusing power to the retina. Children and young patients often have a natural corrective ability, however, this usually declines with age and all hyperopic patients will likely require optical correction for both distance as well as reading.

Presbyopia (the need for reading glasses)

Completely normal as we age, even for those who used to have perfect sight, Presbypoia is where the lens of the eye hardens and does not flex as easily, losing its focusing ability and making it more difficult to read at close range. Eventually this condition will affect almost everyone, and usually begins from the age of 40.

Treatment -  For those who have no other refractive error, Presbyopia is easily corrected with reading glasses. For those who already wear glasses or contact lenses, the introduction of Presbyopia will generally mean switching to a multifocal lens.


Astigmatism develops due to an irregularly-shaped cornea and lens in the eye. In the case of Astigmatism, the cornea has an asymmetric curvature (elliptical or oval shape). This prevents light from focusing properly on the retina, resulting in blurred vision at all distances. Astigmatism may also cause eye strain, headaches and general eye discomfort.

Treatment  Astigmatism is generally corrected with glasses or contact lenses. These lenses will have an astigmatic (or toric) power distribution, therefore correcting the blur in vision at all distances.

Diagnosing Refractive Errors

A refractive error can be diagnosed by an Optometrist during a routine eye examination. If you have trouble with near or distance vision, it is important to schedule an appointment with an experienced eye care professional so they can perform the necessary eye tests to accurately diagnose your condition.

Abernethy Owns is the Optometrist Perth families trust to accurately and effectively diagnose, manage and treat a variety of eye health and vision problems. Book an appointment online today or get in touch with one of our 5 conveniently located practices throughout Perth.