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Nearly half of all American adults have been diagnosed with refractive vision errors, which affect the shape of your eye and make it hard to see clearly at different distances. A properly-functioning eye will focus light directly onto the retina, but if you have a refractive vision condition, the light is bent (or refracted) in the wrong direction.
Refractive vision conditions are caused by a part of your eye being misshapen: either your cornea, the clear, frontmost layer of the eye, or your lens, a flexible tissue behind the pupil. If either of these light-focusing structures isn’t shaped right, you may suffer from one of the following refractive conditions and experience difficult seeing clearly because of it.
Myopia — or nearsightedness — means you have trouble seeing objects far away, but see nearby objects clearly. This condition occurs when your eye is longer than normal or your cornea has a steeper curve than it should, causing light rays to focus in front of your retina instead of directly onto it.
Myopia is believed to be inherited, and usually becomes noticeable in children starting around eight to twelve years old. Vision may worsen during teenage years when the body is growing rapidly, but myopia usually stabilizes around age eighteen to twenty.
No matter how old you are, it’s important to undergo regular eye exams if you have myopia, because it sometimes goes hand-in-hand with other eye problems. For example, those with severe myopia can be at a higher risk for serious issues like retinal detachment and other medical conditions that require a quick response.
Hyperopia — or farsightedness — is when you have trouble focusing on objects close by, but can see distant objects clearly. Hyperopia occurs when your eye is either too short or your cornea is too flat, causing light rays to focus behind your retina instead of directly onto it.
Like myopia, hyperopia is thought to be hereditary. Unlike myopia, it can be noticeable as early as birth. As a child grows, though, their eyes may adjust to reflect light directly onto the retina. Because hyperopia can be in flux for many years, it’s important that children have their vision tested at six months, three years, before first grade, and every year during grade school in order to detect and treat vision problems.
The cornea and the lens are typically round, like a basketball. But if you have astigmatism, your cornea or lens may be shaped like the nose of a football, curving more in one direction than the other.
Like other refractive conditions, this means that the light rays entering your eye do not focus onto your retina. In astigmatic eyes, the unusual curvature of your eye means the light gets reflected in more than one direction, which distorts your vision and causes a “funhouse mirror” effect. This makes objects appear shorter, taller, wider, or thinner than they really are.
Astigmatism can occur in combination with nearsightedness or farsightedness, and often varies in severity over time, requiring regular eye exams.
Presbyopia is a type of farsightedness that’s caused by an inflexible lens. Lens flexibility is what allows the eye to adjust its focus at different distances, but as a natural part of aging, it becomes harder and less flexible, making it difficult to focus on nearby objects. This is why most people require reading glasses or bifocals as they age.
These changes in vision can be very frustrating — especially for those who have never needed contacts or glasses before. Unfortunately, presbyopia affects almost everyone eventually. Since it’s a progressive condition, it may start with subtle symptoms, but will gradually worsen over time.
While there’s no way to reverse presbyopia, there are many different treatment options available. From specialized eyewear to surgical solutions, our eye doctors and eye surgeons at Gulfcoast Eye Care can help you find the best presbyopia treatment for you.
Since refractive vision conditions are so common, there are plenty of treatments available today. From glasses and contact lenses to vision correction surgery, Gulfcoast Eye Care offers a variety of vision solutions that can meet all our patients’ needs, both medical and personal. Call 727-263-3632 to learn more about how we can treat your refractive vision condition and help you get clear vision!