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Refractive errors in children

David K Coats, MD
Evelyn A Paysse, MD
Section Editor
Richard A Saunders, MD
Deputy Editor
Carrie Armsby, MD, MPH


This topic will review refractive errors in children. Vision assessment, strabismus, cataracts, and amblyopia are discussed separately. (See "Visual development and vision assessment in infants and children" and "Evaluation and management of strabismus in children" and "Cataract in children" and "Amblyopia in children: Classification, screening, and evaluation".)

Refractive errors in adults are discussed separately. (See "Visual impairment in adults: Refractive disorders and presbyopia".)


Refraction is the bending of light rays as they pass from one transparent medium to another medium with a different density. During vision, light that is reflected from an object is refracted by the cornea and lens and focused on the retina.

In emmetropia (an eye with normal refractive error), parallel light rays from a distant object are brought into focus precisely on the retina, and a clear image is perceived (movie 1). Perfect emmetropia rarely exists. The majority of individuals have some degree of refractive error, although most do not require correction.


Refractive errors are present when the optical image does not accurately focus on the retina. There are three types: myopia (movie 2), hyperopia (movie 3), and astigmatism (movie 4).

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Literature review current through: Oct 2017. | This topic last updated: Aug 31, 2016.
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