Vision-Threatening Eye Disorders Are On the Rise

Submitted by Clavenna Vision Institute on September 12, 2012

Vision problems — many of them potentially causing severe vision loss or blindness — are on the rise in the U.S., according to a new report from this past June. Most dramatic is the rise in diabetic retinopathy, says Jeff Todd, chief operating officer of Prevent Blindness America, which issued the report. Diabetic retinopathy involves damage to the blood vessels in the retina. It can lead to blindness. In the past 12 years, it has risen an alarming 89%. Nearly 8 million people ages 40 and above now have it. Another vision problem, age-related macular degeneration, is up substantially, with a 25% increase, Todd says. The macula is the part of the eye that provides sharp, central vision. More than 2 million people age 50 and older are affected now.

The report, titled “Vision Problems in the U.S.,” was released in June by Prevent Blindness America and the National Eye Institute. These reports are issued periodically, using Census data and new research. For the current update, the researchers compared the current number of Americans with vision problems with the numbers from 2000.

Besides the increases in macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy, they found a 19% increase in cataracts, with more than 24 million people age 40 and older affected and a 22% increase in open angle glaucoma, with nearly 3 million people age 40 and older affected.

As the number of Americans with vision problems has been increasing, funding for research girl Inflatable Castle and education programs has been slashed. Last year, the CDC saw its research funding dip from about $3.2 million to about $500,000. The rise in diabetic retinopathy is ”scary,” according to Anne Sumers, MD, a clinical correspondent for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “It is proof we are in a losing battle,” she says. “Many of the people affected,” she says, “are in their prime working years, risking vision loss.” The rise in macular degeneration, she agrees, mirrors the booming aging population.

Getting regular eye checkups is a good start to protect your eye health. So are regular checkups with an internist, which should include a check of blood glucose, to be sure you are not in the early stages of diabetes, she says. Lifestyle affects vision problems, too. Smoking can boost the risk of both cataracts and macular degeneration. Eating healthy can help your eyes as well.