What Are Refractive Errors?
The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes uncorrected refractive errors as visual impairments which include:
- Myopia (nearsightedness)
- Hyperopia (farsightedness)
Sight impairment from uncorrected refractive errors (URE) affects 108 million people globally and is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide (Naidoo et al., 2016). The Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries and Risk Factors Study of 2016, includes Refraction and Accommodation Disorders among the list of conditions that can lead to an impaired quality of life.
Uncorrected refractive error (URE) is a major public health challenge with far-reaching social and economic effects on individuals. Refractive errors impact educational attainment, employment opportunities, and productivity. Several studies have examined the relationship between vision loss/impairment and an individual’s wellbeing. Reduced vision place individuals at greater risk for chronic health conditions, accidents, social withdrawal, and depression. The combined personal and societal financial impact is estimated at $269 billion lost annually resulting from lost productivity. Refractive error correction with appropriate spectacles is among the most necessary and cost-effective public health interventions.
URE is not limited to undeveloped countries. In the US, 8.2 million people have visual impairment due to refractive errors, which is projected to double by 2050 to 16.4 million people (Varma et al., 2016). In China, there are now an estimated 720 million Chinese citizens with uncorrected poor vision, according to Dr. Xun Xu at the Shanghai Eye Hospital (CNN Health, 2018). The highest prevalence of uncorrected refractive error is among vulnerable groups such as older people, less educated individuals and those living alone or in rural areas where services are limited (Schneider et al, 2010).
Solutions to Uncorrected Refractive Errors
- Increase access to refractive evaluations.
- Improve the affordability and access to eyeglasses.
- Diversify eye care solutions to match tech-modern life.
- Online prescription verification – Warby Parker and Opternative have options that reduce friction to get new glasses.
- Mobile refractive evaluations – EyeQue offers at-home vision testing device powered by smartphones and MIT patented technology. Use the results to order glasses online.
- Online eyeglass retailers – Zenni Optical offers affordable glasses starting at $6.95.
Guo, W., Woodward, M. A., Heisler, M., Blachley, T., Corneail, L., Cederna, J., … Newman Casey, P. A. (2016). Risk Factors for Visual Impairment in an Uninsured Population and the Impact of the Affordable Care Act. Clinics in Surgery, 1, 1236.
Schneider, J., Leeder, S. R., Gopinath, B., Wang, J. J., & Mitchell, P. (2010). Frequency, course, and impact of correctable visual impairment (uncorrected refractive error). Survey of Ophthalmology, 55(6), 539-560. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.survophthal.2010.02.004
Varma, R., Vajaranant, T. S., Burkemper, B., Wu, S., Torres, M., Hsu, C., … McKean- Cowdin, R. (2016). Visual Impairment and Blindness in Adults in the United States: Demographic and Geographic Variations from 2015 to 2050. JAMA Ophthalmology, 134(7), 802–809. http://doi.org/10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2016.1284