Vision Correction

vision correctionSurely, you know many people who wear corrective eyeglasses or contact lenses. This may include you. The most common eye condition that is correctable with glasses is myopia. Sounds easy to fix, right? And yet, a huge amount of preventable vision loss is due to uncorrected or improperly corrected refractive error. Women, in particular, may think they are too busy with their children, jobs, and perhaps elder-care as well, to get new glasses.

What are Refractive Conditions?
Refractive conditions refer to the imperfect focusing of light on the retina. Myopia, the most common type of refractive error, is also called nearsightedness. If you are myopic, objects that are nearby are seen clearly, but distant objects do not come into proper focus. Nearsightedness occurs if your eyeball is too long or the cornea has too much curvature, so that the rays of light entering your eye are not focused correctly on the retina. Nearsightedness is a very common vision condition that affects nearly 30 percent of the U.S. population. It normally first occurs in school-age children and adolescents. The eye continues to grow during childhood, so nearsightedness generally develops by age 20.

Other common refractive conditions are hyperopia (farsightedness), astigmatism (occurring when the cornea is not perfectly spherical), and presbyopia (usually in older adults and correctable with bifocals). Emmetropia is the term used when light is properly focused in the eye.

Signs and Symptoms
The characteristic sign of nearsightedness is difficulty seeing distant objects like a movie or TV screen or chalkboard. These objects appear more or less fuzzy, depending on distance. An adult or an older child will probably recognize the problem and realize that he or she should be examined by an optometrist or ophthalmologist. Signs to be aware of in a younger child are the avoidance of close work, holding pictures or books very close to the eyes, or frequent headaches. In any case, even if there is no apparent problem, a child’s vision should be screened periodically by the pediatrician.

Although the shape of the eyeball is probably largely determined by genetics, there may also be an environmental component to myopia. There is growing evidence that nearsightedness may be caused by the stress of close vision work such as reading and watching television. However, because such activities are essential to modern lifestyles, there is really nothing we can do to prevent myopia. Fortunately, it is a benign condition and easily corrected.

A comprehensive examination by an eye care professional will include testing for nearsightedness and other refractive errors. Your optometrist or opthalmologist can then prescribe eyeglasses or contact lenses to optically correct the condition by altering the way that light enters your eyes. You may only need to wear the glasses for certain activities, like watching a movie or driving a car, or they may need to be worn most of the time. Follow instructions as to how long contact lenses should be left in the eye, or else inflammation or infection can occur.

Refractive surgery or laser procedures are also possible treatments for nearsightedness. LASIK is the most common form of operation at present. If you decide to go this route, make sure a reputable eye surgeon carries out the procedure, and be aware that vision can be made worse by LASIK in a small percentage of patients, and that many people still need glasses.

For More Information
To learn more about refraction conditions and their diagnosis and treatments, read our guide “Do You or Your Child Need Glasses?” The American Optometric Association also provides helpful information about eye conditions, as does the American Academy of Optometry.

Women’s Eye Health