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Refractive Errors and Work Productivity

Your eyes are an invaluable resource in the workplace. Whether you’re handling heavy machinery or filing spreadsheets on a computer, your vision is necessary to get your job done as efficiently and effectively as possible.

When a minor issue occurs and slows down your workload, you’re not the only person affected. According to the Vision Impact Institute, uncorrected vision problems like refractive errors cost the global economy near $272 billion in lost productivity.1 With greater awareness around the importance of vision correction, you can take control of your eye health before it makes an impact on you and your colleagues.

Let’s take a closer look at what defines a refractive error, different types of refractive errors, symptoms, and treatment options.

What is a refractive error?

According to the National Eye Institute, refractive errors are defined as issues that occur when eye shape impacts lights ability to focus on the retina.2 Refraction itself is when light deflects and passes through one object to another; in this case, it occurs when light rays pass through the cornea and the lens. This is generally caused by abnormal length of the eyeball, which changes the shape of the cornea. 

Refractive errors most commonly fall into one of four types:

  • Myopia. Most commonly known as nearsightedness, this occurs when objects nearby are clear, but distant objects are more difficult to see. The refractive error occurs as the light focuses in front of the retina, not inside of it. Myopia often occurs during childhood and progresses with age.
  • Hyperopia, also known as farsightedness, is the opposite of myopia. This condition occurs when objects far away are clear, but anything close up is perceived as blurry. This issue can be mild, but advanced hyperopia can induce blurry vision in objects no matter the distance. This often occurs during childhood years and can lessen with age.
  • Presbyopia is the aging of the eye lens. With age, the lens doesn’t flex as well as before and it becomes more difficult to focus. This often occurs in adults age 40 and older. Because this can be considered a natural part of the aging process, presbyopia can occur with any of the other refractive errors, making visual impairment more severe.
  • Astigmatism occurs when the cornea is curved. The cornea is normally smooth, allowing light to enter at all directions, helping you to focus. With an astigmatism, light enters from one direction, causing vision to look blurry, stretched and distorted.

Symptoms of refractive error

Refractive errors are diagnosed by eye care professionals during a dilated eye examination. However, there are certain signs to pay attention to that should encourage you to reach out to an eye care professional and schedule an exam.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine,3 the most common symptoms of refractive error include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Double vision
  • Haziness
  • Glare
  • Halos around lights
  • Squinting on a regular basis
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Eyestrain

Some people have been living with refractive error for so long that they don’t even recognize they’re not seeing as clearly as they could be. If you’re unsure of your state of vision and one or more of the prior symptoms is affecting you, schedule an appointment with an eye care professional.

Treating refractive error and improving productivity in the workplace

With the right treatment options and lifestyle changes, you can take care of refractive error and improve productivity levels at work. Consider the following suggestions if you’re living with refractive error:

  1. Take a break from the screens. One study found that office workers spend 6.5 hours on average at their computer screens.4 This doesn’t account for the amount of time spent scrolling a social media feed on a smartphone, too. That’s a lot of “wear and tear” on your eyes.
  2. Correct refractive errors with glasses, contact lenses, or surgery to change the shape of the cornea and restore focus.

If you have vision care benefits, you are better able to take control of your visual health and seek assistance when issues like refractive error occurs. Not only will this improve your quality of, but it can also increase productivity in the workplace.


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