America may face a public health crisis in coming years unless drastic changes are made to the perception of eye health, according to a report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM).
Taking steps to create a public conversation about the matter, Allergan has launched its See America public awareness campaign to improve this awareness of and access to comprehensive eye exams.
See America will involve a heavy social media presence with physical events aimed at tackling the fight against preventable blindness in the United States. Because many eye diseases in their early stages are undetected without an eye exam, it is critical that people of all ages receive regular eye exams.
About 61 million American adults are at risk for severe vision loss, but only 50% visited an eye-care professional in the past year, according to national data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“It’s funny—we’re all really well-versed in eye care: We live in the trenches and we’re all taking care of patients in one manner or another,” said Elizabeth Yeu, MD, Virginia Eye Consultants, and assistant professor, Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk, VA. “What we don’t understand is that in the general public, a lot of people do not recognize how delicate vision actually is.”
Dr. Yeu has partnered with the See America campaign and expressed her desire to have a smaller proportion of patients in the late-stages of eye disease.
“Earlier detection and getting those comprehensive eye exams, whatever your age may be, is going to be really important," she said. "Increasing that awareness through See America is an honorable and worthy initiative that I am really excited to be part of.”
Glaucoma, diabetes, macular degeneration, and cataracts—all preventable causes of vision loss—need to be detected before the end-stage manifestation of asymptomatic vision loss occurs, Dr. Yeu said.
The NASEM report issued a call-to-action that preventable blindness be eliminated by 2030. The report was created by a committee of experts in the field of ophthalmology, optometry, health policy, education, and geriatric medicine.
Recent: Cannabis: Is it high time?
Uncorrectable vision impairment currently affects about 8 to 16 million people in the United States, and that number may double by 2050, according to the report.
In addition, 63% of the 142 million Americans over the age of 40 have vision problems. The economic burden of the low-ranking priority of eye health in society is expected to triple over these coming decades, per the report.