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Understanding the 3 Most Common Refractive Problems

To see, your eyes bend, or refract, light. As the light moves, your retina translates the rays into messages that your brain converts to images. Refractive errors are problems with your vision that make it difficult to see clearly. These problems occur when the shape of your eye makes it difficult to bend and focus light on your retina. They can be caused by the length of your eyeball, the aging process and how it affects your lens, or a change in the way your cornea is shaped. 

Do I have a refractive error?

Symptoms of refractive problems include:

If you have a refractive error, you’re not alone. According to the National Eye Institute, more than 150 million Americans have been diagnosed with refractive vision problems. 

Common issues

At Black Hills Regional Eye Institute, our board-certified ophthalmologist, Stephen Khachikian, MD, serves residents of Rapid City, South Dakota. Read on as he shares more about the three most common refractive problems.


Myopia is the clinical term for nearsightedness. As the term suggests, nearsightedness means that you can see things that are close clearly, but your distance vision is not as clear. Myopia typically occurs when your cornea is too curved or your eyeball stretches longer than normal.


Hyperopia is the medical term for farsightedness. With hyperopia, objects up close are blurry, but those at a distance are crisp and clear. If you need to squint to read or see nearby objects, it’s likely that you have farsightedness. 


If your cornea or the lens inside your eye has incongruent curves, you have an astigmatism. With an astigmatism, your vision is blurry at both distances--near and far. You can have an astigmatism at birth, or it can develop as a result of injury, illness, or surgery.

Treatment options for refractive problems

Traditional treatment options for refractive errors are to prescribe glasses or contact lenses. Dr. Khachikian offers permanent surgical correction of your refractive vision problems. He’ll meet with you to conduct a thorough vision exam and discuss your options. At our center, we specialize in LASIK and PRK, two popular surgical procedures that fully correct astigmatisms, hyperopia, and myopia.

To learn more about your surgical options for refractive vision problems, call our team or book an appointment online for a one-on-one consultation.  

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