Home > Information > Refractive Errors

Refractive errors

Do you know why you wear glasses? Is it because you are short-sighted, long-sighted or something else? The topics below cover common eye conditions that are treated with glasses, including astigmatism, myopia, hyperopia, presbyopia, and cataracts.


Astigmatism is an eye condition that results in blurred vision. It is caused by a ‘warped’ cornea (a cornea that curves unevenly, rather than curving equally in all directions). With astigmatism your vision can be blurry at various distances—short, middle, and long range—and can distort objects, making them appear slanted. You can be born with astigmatism or develop it later in life. Common symptoms include headache, fatigue, squinting, eye discomfort and irritation.

Find out more about astigmatism.

Myopia (short-sightedness)

Myopia (often called ‘short-sightedness’) is a very common eye condition that affects nearly one-third of all Australians. Short-sightedness means that you are unable to see objects in the distance, but are able to see objects closer to you. It is not known what causes short-sightedness, but it is believed that poor reading habits, spending a lot of time looking at objects at a close distance, and poor lighting may contribute to the problem. However, it has also been found to be more common in children whose parents have myopia. It is often first discovered when a child is at school and can’t focus on the board at the front of the room.

Read more about myopia.

Hyperopia (long-sightedness)

Hyperopia (often called ‘long-sightedness’) is a common eye condition affecting nearly a quarter of all Australians. It causes nearby objects such as books or computer screens to appear blurry, whereas objects further in the distance are easier to see. Symptoms of hyperopia include headaches and strained eyes as a result of looking at nearby objects for a long period of time. Often hyperopia is something you are born with but only becomes apparent when you are an adult. This is because your eyes no longer have the same ability to focus and compensate for the issue.

Read more about hyperopia.


Presbyopia is an extremely common eye condition that affects the vast majority of people over forty. It is literally caused by the eye ‘aging’, leading to decreased flexibility. Presbyopia makes it very difficult to focus on objects at close range, including small size font on a computer screen, phone or newspaper. Although the symptoms of presbyopia are often confused with hyperopia (long-sightedness), presbyopia is caused by age, whereas hyperopia can happen at any time.

Find out more about presbyopia.


Cataracts are a condition that cause your eye’s lens to become cloudy. It may start in a particular area, but with time cataracts can grow so large that it is hard to see out of one or both eyes. Cataracts are not only a concern of elderly people, babies can have cataracts, and you can also develop them following an eye trauma. Early symptoms of cataracts can be treated with strong glasses and improved lighting; however, many people eventually opt for surgery to have the clouded lens replaced.

Learn more about cataracts.