Visual impairment, blindness rising sharply

June 28, 2012
Ophthalmology Times Staff Reports

The number of Americans aged 40 or more years who are experiencing vision impairment and blindness has increased 23% since 2000. That is one of the findings of the 2012 update of the “Vision Problems in the U.S.” report, a study released by Prevent Blindness America (PBA) and the National Eye Institute.

Chicago-The number of Americans aged 40 or more years who are experiencing vision impairment and blindness has increased 23% since 2000. That is one of the findings of the 2012 update of the “Vision Problems in the U.S.” report, a study released by Prevent Blindness America (PBA) and the National Eye Institute.

The study, conducted by researchers from Johns Hopkins University, provides prevalence rates and estimates cases of age-related eye conditions. The 2012 report highlights increases in each of the four most common eye diseases since 2000, including:
• 2,069,403 people aged 50 or more years have late age-related macular degeneration, a 25% increase since 2000.
• 24,409,978 people aged 40 or more years have cataracts, a 19% increase.
• 2,719,379 people aged 40 or more years have open-angle glaucoma, a 22% increase.
• 7,685,237 people aged 40 or more years have diabetic retinopathy, an 89% increase.

“It’s no surprise that the numbers of those affected by eye disease are continuing to climb, especially due to the aging baby boomer population,” said Hugh R. Parry, president and chief executive officer of PBA. “What is exceptionally concerning is the dramatic spike in diabetic retinopathy cases, a consequence of the diabetes epidemic that this country is experiencing with no end in sight.”

Diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness in adults aged 20 to 74 years. According to the Centers for Disease Control, diabetes affects 25.8 million people in the United States.

In addition to the findings in the “Vision Problems in the U.S.” report, a preliminary update to the 2007 PBA “Economic Impact of Vision Problems” report shows a $1 billion increase in costs of excess medical care expenditures, informal care, and health-related quality of life related to visual impairment and blindness. Further cost information is being developed, and a full updated report on the economic effects of vision problems will be available at a later date.

All data from the “Vision Problems in the U.S.” report can now be obtained through a new searchable database housed on the PBA Web site at www.preventblindness.org/visionproblems. This tool enables users to research a wide range of information-including eye disease and condition numbers broken down by state, age, sex, and race-and provides comparisons across disease conditions.

“It is our hope that [these] new data will provide those in the health community, the public, and our nation’s leaders with the vital information they need to address these troubling numbers through programs, research, and funding,” Parry added.

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