Blindness and vision impairment are on the rise in the United States. A recent report by Prevent Blindness America indicates that, since the year 2000, incidence of blindness and vision impairment has increased by 23 percent among Americans age 40 and older.
However, most blindness in this country is preventable with proper eye care. The American Academy of Ophthalmology and EyeCare America urge Americans to get regular eye exams to better prevent and detect sight-stealing eye diseases.
Rising rates of age-related eye diseases and conditions are largely to blame for the increase in vision loss. Four of the most common causes of vision loss are diabetic retinopathy, where blood vessels in the retina swell or become blocked due to diabetes; age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a breakdown of the eye’s macula; glaucoma, an eye disease that damages the optic nerve; and cataracts, in which the eye’s lens becomes clouded. These conditions have shown a marked increase over the past 12 years:
- The prevalence of diabetic retinopathy increased by 89 percent.
- The frequency of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) increased by 25 percent.
- The incidence of glaucoma increased by 22 percent.
- The number of people affected by cataracts increased by 19 percent.
As baby-boomers continue to age, the incidence of age-related eye disease is also expected to continue to increase. Currently, people age 80 and older constitute only 8 percent of the population, but account for 69 percent of all cases of blindness. Early detection and treatment by an ophthalmologist – an eye medical doctor – may help prevent and in some cases, such as cataracts, even reverse vision loss.
Many seniors age 65 and older may qualify for an eye exam and up to one year of care at no out-of-pocket-cost through EyeCare America, a public service program of the Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. EyeCare America matches qualifying patients age 65 and older with an ophthalmologist who provides a comprehensive medical eye examination. EyeCare America is co-sponsored by the Knights Templar Eye Foundation, Inc, with additional support from Alcon. To see if you or a loved one is eligible, visit the online referral center at www.eyecareamerica.org.
“Regular eye exams are imperative to detect and treat eye diseases and prevent serious vision loss,” said Richard P. Mills, M.D., chairman of EyeCare America. “This is especially true for people age 65 and older who are at increased risk for eye diseases. That’s why EyeCare America is so focused on providing access to eye care, and we hope that fewer people will suffer from preventable causes of blindness as a result.”
To learn more about EyeCare America or to find out if you or a loved one qualifies for the program, visit www.eyecareamerica.org.
Learn more about eye diseases and conditions, and keeping your eyes healthy at www.geteyesmart.org.