US study finds uncorrected refractive error causing visual impairment

Research finds two-thirds of visual impairment in an African American population could be addressed with spectacles

A cellphone, an open book and a closed book rest on a wooden table. Spectacles rest on the pages of the open book

New research published in JAMA Ophthalmology has described the prevalence of uncorrected refractive error among a group of 6337 African American survey respondents.

The study found that refractive error was the largest cause of correctable visual impairment among those surveyed.

There were around one in seven individuals with an uncorrected refractive error and around one in 20 respondents with an unmet refractive need.

“Providing universal coverage for vision care and prescription glasses is an affordable and achievable health care intervention that could reduce the burden of visual impairment in African American adults by over two-thirds and likely raise the quality of life and work productivity, especially in this vulnerable minority population,” the authors highlighted.

Refractive error-related visual impairment was present in 69% of respondents with visual impairment.

The highest prevalence of uncorrected refractive error was found among respondents in the lowest annual household income bracket (under $20,000 USD or £15,774).

This group was almost twice as likely to have uncorrected refractive error as those with an annual household income over $40,000 (£31,548).

Not having vision care insurance and not receiving a sight test in the past year was also associated with in increased chance of having uncorrected refractive error.