A relatively simple transform from an arbitrary solution of the paraxial wave equation to the corresponding exact solution of the Helmholtz wave equation is derived in the condition that the evanescent waves are ignored and is used to study the corrections to the paraxial approximation of an arbitrary free-propagation beam. Specifically, the general lowest-order correction field is given in a very simple form and is proved to be exactly consistent with the perturbation method developed by Lax et al. [Phys. Rev. A 11, 1365 (1975)]. Some special examples, such as the lowest-order correction to the paraxial approximation of a fundamental Gaussian beam whose waist plane has a parallel shift from the plane, are presented.
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