UNCORRECTED REFRACTIVE ERROR

By Sophia Y. Fang, MD

WHAT IS A REFRACTIVE ERROR?

A refractive error is a very common eye disorder in which there is a less-than-ideal optical property of the eye that prevents light from the outside world from being perfectly focused onto the retina inside the eye. The degree of refractive error you have determines how much blurriness it will cause in your vision.

There are four common types of refractive error:

Myopia (“near-sightedness” or being able to see things up close clearer than things far away)

Hyperopia (“far-sightedness” or being able to see things far away clearer than things up close)

Astigmatism (sometimes referred to as “cylinder” which causes uneven focusing that results in a distortion in your vision)

Presbyopia (which causes difficulty focusing on things up close as we age)

WHAT HARM DO REFRACTIVE ERRORS CAUSE?

Although refractive error is not preventable, the good news is that it is usually easily correctable with appropriate eyeglasses or contact lenses. If, however, a young child has a high degree of refractive error or if a young child has a big difference in the refractive error between his or her two eyes, it can prevent the normal visual development that occurs throughout childhood and result in an uncorrectable, permanent loss of vision called amblyopia.

According to the World Health Organization, uncorrected refractive error is one of the leading causes of visual impairment globally, accounting for 43 percent of the cases or more than 153 million people.

Particularly in older people, poor eyesight can lead to accidents, social withdrawal, and loss of independence.

Visual impairment due to uncorrected refractive error is more common among women than in men in all regions of the world. This is thought to be due in part to women generally living longer than men and that in many places around the world, especially in developing countries, women do not have the same access to health care as men.

If you think you or someone you know may suffer from visual impairment due to uncorrected refractive error, contact an eye care professional for an eye exam.

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