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Uncorrected Refractive Error

Uncorrected Refractive Error


The Problem

Refractive errors occur when the eye is unable to properly focus images on the retina, resulting in blurred vision. These are due to myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), astigmatism and presbyopia. When refractive errors are left uncorrected or when the correction is inadequate, they can cause severe visual impairment and even blindness. Refractive errors may not be addressed for a variety of reasons, including a lack of awareness or recognition by the individual or family, limited availability or affordability of refractive services and glasses and cultural stigmas that discourage the use of glasses.

Global Impact

Uncorrected refractive error is responsible for 43 percent of global vision impairment, with 5 million people having gone blind. Half of all cases of refractive error go undetected and untreated. This lack of treatment makes uncorrected refractive error (URE) the leading cause of blindness in children and adolescents. Due to URE, the more than 12 million visually-impaired children ages 5 to 15 also suffer critical setbacks in development since learning is often visually-based.


Refractive errors can be easily corrected with glasses or other refractive interventions. Treatment is cost-effective, has a significant impact on quality of life and can prevent the problem from advancing to severe impairment or blindness.

SightFirst’s Work

With funds raised from Campaign SightFirst II, URE has become a new program area for the Foundation. LCIF and SightFirst are working toward addressing URE around the world.

Funding Priorities

SightFirst will support capacity building and the development of systems for the manufacture and distribution of new glasses and target underserved school-aged children. The following are priorities for URE projects:

  • Focus on capacity building and the development of systems for the manufacture and distribution of new glasses rather than the provision of individual eye glasses.
  • Target underserved school-aged children and other populations.
  • Remain flexible in approach to adapt to each environment.
  • Help develop comprehensive and sustainable eye care systems.
  • Use and/or collect data to identify and evaluate projects.
  • Provide high-quality eye care services.
  • Engage Lions as advocates.
  • Projects should contain these elements:
    • Community-based early detection and referral services
    • Diagnosis and provision of glasses at eye care centers
    • Follow-up and compliance

In general, SightFirst projects must focus on the major causes of blindness on national or large regional levels. These projects reach populations who are underserved or who have limited or no access to eye health care services. The program funds high-quality, sustainable projects that deliver eye care services, develop infrastructure, train personnel and/or provide rehabilitation and education in underserved communities.


Find more information, including the SightFirst grant application, disease-specific questionnaires and long-range policy papers.

To learn more about the uncorrected refractive error statistics found on this page, please visit the following: World Health Organization: Visual Impairment and Blindness
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