The surface stress on the real shape (biconcave disklike) of an erythrocyte under laser irradiation is theoretically studied according to the finite-difference time-domain (FDTD) method. The distribution of the surface stresses depends on the orientation of erythrocytes in the laser beam. Typically when the erythrocyte was irradiated from the side direction (the laser beam was perpendicular to the normal of the erythrocyte plane), the surface stresses were so asymmetrical and nonuniform that the magnitude of the surface stress on the back surface was three times higher than that on the front surface, and the highest-to-lowest ratio of the stress reached 16 times. For comparison, the surface stress was also calculated according to the ray optics (RO) method. The tendency of the stress distribution from the RO calculation was roughly similar to that of the FDTD method. However the RO calculation produced some unphysical results, such as the infinite stress on some surface region and the zero stress on the most parts of the erythrocyte surface, which is due to the neglecting of light diffraction. The results obtained from the FDTD calculation are believed quantitatively reliable, because the FDTD method automatically takes into account of the diffraction and interference effects of the light wave. Thus, the FDTD method is more suitable than the RO method for the stress study of erythrocytes.