Healthy Vision Month Focuses On Refractive Eye Errors

May is Healthy Vision Month, which in 2009 focuses on the 60 percent of Americans who have refractive vision problems.

Most Mississippians are at greater risk for neglecting their eye care because they don’t have vision insurance, pointed out Jackson ophthalmologist Connie McCaa, M.D., Ph.D.

The most common vision problems are “refractive errors” – which can be corrected with glasses, contact lens, or LASIK laser vision treatment (a type of refractive surgery).

Neglected eye problems can lead to poor performance in school, poor work performance, dangerous driving, and diminished quality of life. An ophthalmology exam also may detect hidden diseases of the eye, diabetes and circulatory problems.

“In study after study, Americans says vision is their most valued of the five senses,” McCaa noted. “They also rate loss of eyesight as a 10 on a scale of one to 10, according to the National Eye Institute.

“To preserve sight, May is the time of year we remind people to get regular checkups from their local ophthalmologist,” McCaa added. “We also know that there are 11 million Americans who have untreated refractive errors – which easily can be corrected to restore perfect, or near-perfect vision.”

There are four types of refractive errors, which are caused by flaws in the cornea that covers the front of the eye. The types, defined by the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AA0), are:

– Myopia (nearsightedness): Close objects look clear, but distant objects are blurry.
– Hyperopia (farsightedness): Distant objects look clear, but close objects are blurry.
– Astigmatism: Vision is blurred for both near and far objects.
– Presbyopia: The eyes gradually lose the ability to change focus from distance to near (a condition which often begins at about age 40 and affects reading).
Many people will have one or more of these refractive errors.

“The important thing to remember that such refractive errors are correctable, unless there is another underlying eye problem,” said McCaa, a cornea and refractive surgery specialist with 14 years of LASIK experience. “We provide LASIK laser vision correction, as do other ophthalmologists around Mississippi. Other corrective options are eyeglasses or contact lens, which eye doctors statewide also offer.”

Healthy Vision Month in May is a national observance in the federal government’s Healthy People 2010 campaign. The 2009 goal of reducing uncorrected visual impairment due to refractive errors includes promoting eye exams.

The AAO has guidelines about how often you need an eye exam.

The need for eye exams, of course, doesn’t change for Mississippians without vision insurance. Only 17 percent of U.S. employers report offering vision insurance, although studies show that employers gain as much as $7 in productivity and other assets for every $1 spent on vision coverage, according to The Vision Council.

Needy Americans who cannot afford an eye exam may contact the AAO’s Eye Care America program to see if they qualify for a free eye exam by a local ophthalmologist in their area. To see if you qualify, call 1-800-222-3937 or go to aao/eyecare/care/ on the Web.

For more information on eye care, please consult these Web links:

– American Academy of Ophthalmology
– Connie McCaa, M.D., Ph.D.
– AAO online Eye Disease Simulators

American Academy of Ophthalmology and Connie S. McCaa, M.D., Ph.D.