A focometer is an instrument used to measure visual refractive errors; nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatisms. This tool is handheld and can be as accurate as an autorefractor (an automated, computer controlled machine that also tests for visual refraction errors). A focometer is useful in places where standard methods, like an autorefractor, cannot be used due to limited transportation or electricity.
Surgeons for Sight utilizes this tool for our Focometer Program where we equip existing mission teams to provide eye care clinics to individuals who they would have already been serving. Churches and organizations going on mission trips can partake in this program and help combat the lack of eye care available in the countries they are visiting. Surgeons for Sight also provides these groups with all of the equipment they would need to provide their clinic, like eyeglasses, eye charts, pinhole occluders, and an eye patch. Forty three percent of visual impairments can be attributed to uncorrected refractive error (approximately 153 million people as of 2013) (WHO). As of 2006, 45 million working-age adults worldwide were affected by uncorrected refractive error (WHO). Through participating in the Focometer Program, mission teams help combat the issue of uncorrected vision throughout the world.
You do not have to be medically trained to use a focometer. Here’s how it works:
To obtain a reading using a focometer, a patient will stand 20 feet in front of an eye chart. The patient will then look through the focometer with one eye while the other is covered with an eye patch. They will begin adjusting the instrument clockwise (like binoculars) until the object they are looking at becomes clear. The focometer has a scale on the side called the diopter scale. After the patient’s vision is clear, the point where the rotating collar crosses the diopter scale is the nearest value of the refractive error. There are plus and minus signs in front of the numbers on the scale which represent far vision (plus sign) and near vision (minus sign). If the scale reads 0, then the individual has no refractive error.
Here are some stories from a mission team that utilized Surgeons for Sight’s Focometer Program:
A team from WoodCreek Dental went to Ecuador in July of 2015. Jody, a member of this trip, accounts that the team was able to see around 90 people and distributed 50 pairs of glasses. “I helped in the eye clinic on the trip to the dry small and remote village of Pachancho, Ecuador. It was located in the high Andes mountains at 13,600 ft which we traveled 25 minutes every day down a dirt road to get there. The language spoken was a blend of Spanish and Quichan. Many of the older people didn’t read or know their alphabet. We passed the great Chimborazo volcano every day on our way there. We worked alongside dental services, and a shoe ministry on our last day there.” Jody explained that while assessing people’s vision they also found evidences of several pterygiums, a fleshy tissue on the white of the eye. The team was surprised when pterygiums were seen on those at all ages, even as young as 11 years old. Cataracts also plagued many of the older patients. At the end of the clinic, those who received glasses were so thankful to be given the gift of clearer vision.
The team from WoodCreek Dental in Ecuador.
The road to get to the village.
A child from the village in Ecuador using the Focomoter.
If you would like to participate in the Focometer Program please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.