Refractive Errors and Childhood Eye Conditions

April 21, 2023
Refractive errors in vision

What are Refractive Errors?

Refractive errors is the term for a range of vision problems where the shape of the eye makes it difficult to see clearly.

Types of Refractive Errors

There are four main types of refractive errors:

Shortsightedness (myopia)
where objects that are far away are blurry and are hard to see clearly;
Longsightedness (hyperopia)
where nearby objects are blurry and are hard to see clearly;
where both distant and nearby objects look blurry and are hard to see clearly; and
a condition where older adults have difficulty in seeing objects that are up close clearly.

With the exception of presbyopia, these conditions can affect people at any age, so if your child has difficulty in seeing, a diagnosis from a Paediatric Ophthalmologist is highly recommended.

What are some Refractive Error Symptoms?

The most common symptom associated with refractive error is blurred vision, i.e., you can’t see details clearly. This can be the case when looking at close up objects, objects in the distance, or both.

There are, however, other symptoms associated with the condition as well. These include:

  • Double vision;
  • Seeing a halo effect when looking at bright lights;
  • Trouble focusing on a page or screen when reading;
  • Squinting in order to try and see more clearly;
  • Frequent headaches; and/or
  • Eyes that always feel tired or sore.

What is my refractive Errors Risk?

Although anyone is at risk of having refractive errors that affect their vision, you are more likely to have the condition if members of your family need to wear glasses or contact lenses.

Most refractive errors first begin to manifest in childhood, so if you wear glasses or contact lenses you should arrange regular appointments with a Paediatric Ophthalmologist near you so that your child’s eye health can be closely monitored.

What are the causes of Refractive Error?

There are three main reasons for refractive error. It can be caused by the length of the eyeball being too long or too short, problems with the shape of the cornea, or as a result of ageing of the lens in the eye (the clear part that helps the eye to focus). These will all prevent images being focused clearly on the retina (the back of the eye).

With the exception of the last one, which occurs over time, the above conditions will usually begin to develop in childhood, so if your child has some difficulty in reading or being able to see clearly, you should see an eye specialist for kids so that you can get a diagnosis as early as possible.

Causes of Refractive Error After Cataract Surgery

Cataracts occur when the lens of the eye becomes cloudy, making it more difficult to see clearly. Corrective eye surgery in Adelaide in which the clouded eye lens is removed and replaced with a clear one (one eye at a time) can help to restore vision.

However, there are some instances where after cataracts treatment there are still refractive errors that impede clear vision. In this scenario, additional surgery may be required to insert another lens, or it may be the case that glasses or contact lenses are still needed to be worn.

What are my options for Refractive Errors Treatment?

Refractive errors are most commonly corrected through glasses or contact lenses, or by an operation performed by a refractive surgeon. This procedure can change the shape of the cornea, and in so doing correct refractive errors. Such surgeries are only done in adulthood after the eyes have completed their growth.

It is especially important for children with vision problems to see a paediatric ophthalmologist who specialise in eye health and other conditions such as amblyopia (also known as lazy eye) in order to get a comprehensive diagnosis as early as possible

Refractive Errors In Children
Most refractive errors begin to develop in childhood, so it is important to consult a paediatric eye specialist if your child reports any issues with blurred vision or not being able to read or see objects clearly.

Do I need to Consult a Paediatric Ophthalmologist?

If you have any concerns at all about how well your child can see, you should consult a Paediatric Ophthalmologist in Adelaide. An eye specialist will assess their visual function, eye movements and the overall health of their eyes.
Your Paediatric Ophthalmologist will then be able to determine whether glasses or contact lenses are required, or another form of treatment is needed to ensure your child has the clearest vision and healthiest eyes possible.

Related Resources

Young man with glasses rubbing his eyes

Understanding Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration, also known as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), is a progressive eye ...

Read more
Dr inspecting the eye of a glaucoma patient

Understanding Glaucoma: The Silent Thief of Sight

Imagine a world where your peripheral vision slowly fades away, leaving you with tunnel vision an...

Read more
SA Eye Specialists - Optometry Education Night

Optometry Education Night

Interactive discussion with a fantastic opportunity for questions and answers. Connect, learn and...

Read more

Memberships and Fellowships

The team at SA Eye Specialsits are active members and fellows of multiple organisations including