By 2050, nearly 25 million Americans will be affected by vision problems as baby boomers continue to age. Currently, over 12 million Americans live with poor vision. Lead researcher Dr. Rohit Varma said, “This study gives us a GPS for our nation’s future eye health. Our group and others have shown in previous studies that those who suffer from vision loss not only have a decreased quality of life but can also experience both physical and mental health decline, including an increased risk for chronic health conditions such as diabetes, depression, and even death.”
In 2013, the economic burden in the U.S. from vision problems was estimated at $139 billion annually.
Dr. Varma suggests that education and early screening could be effective methods in reducing the vision crisis and improve quality of life. Regular eye exams, too, are recommended as they can detect early on changes to the eyes and ensure eyeglass prescriptions are kept up to date.
Dr. Varma added, “The earlier we can diagnose and treat potentially blinding eye diseases, the greater the likelihood that more people will have the chance to live longer lives without the physical limitations and emotional challenges of vision loss.”
Dr. Varma and his team analyzed data from men and women over the age of 40 and estimated the prevalence of vision problems through 2050. Census data was used to project vision impairment and blindness by age, sex, race and ethnicity, and state.
Currently, white women and older adults have the highest rates of vision problems, and this trend is expected to continue. The researchers also estimate that vision problems in ethnic groups will shift from blacks to Hispanics by 2050.
Residents of Florida and Hawaii will have the highest rate of vision problems, and those in Mississippi and Louisiana will have the highest rates of blindness.
Dr. Alfred Sommer, a professor of ophthalmology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, explained, “The biggest cause of the increasing vision problems in the U.S. is the growth and aging of the population. Most visual impairment is driven by people who don’t have the right pair of spectacles.” The biggest causes of blindness are age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma. Dr. Sommer added, “While we have some treatment for these two, they are not ideal by any means.”
Right now, it is recommended that adults over the age of 40, especially whites, go for an annual eye exam.
Also, read Bel Marra Health’s article on Surprising food helps improve vision.