A study from Johns Hopkins University is showing an increasing number of vision impairment problems and blindness in those over 40. The report released today by Prevent Blindness America and the National Eye Institute (NEI) shows a surprising 23% increase since 2000.

The preliminary update to the 2007 Prevent Blindness America “Economic Impact of Vision Problems” report, pegs the problem as costing an extra $1 billion in medical care, informal care and health-related quality of life. Further cost data and a full updated report on the economic impact of vision problems will be available in the near future.

A run down of both the medical and financial aspects of vision problems and blindness are being presented today at the Prevent Blindness America “Focus on Eye Health Summit” held in Washinton, DC. The conference also features reports on eye health surveillance efforts and NEI plans for future vision research.

A summary of the statistics brings the rather troubling problem out into the light with:

  • 2,069,403 people age 50 and older have late AMD (age-related macular degeneration), a 25 percent increase
  • 24,409,978 million people age 40 and older have cataracts, a 19 percent increase
  • 2,719,379 million people age 40 and older have open-angleglaucoma, a 22 percent increase
  • 7,685,237 million people ages 40 and older have diabetic retinopathy, an 89 percent increase

Hugh R. Parry, president and CEO of Prevent Blindness America said:

“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 … 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 seen to be the leading cause driving the new cases of blindness, and with obesity and poor dietary habits on the rise, there doesn’t look to be much resolution to the problem in the near future. As of now, there is no cure for diabetic blindness, and the best that doctors and patients can hope for is frequent eye exams to catch and slow the progress of the disease.

The data from the Vision Problems in the U.S. report is online at a searchable database on the Prevent Blindness America website: www. preventblindness.org/visionproblems. President Parry said he hopes that this new resource will provide patients and healthcare providers with the ability to garner more information about vision problems. Eye disease and condition numbers can be searched and broken down by state, age, sex, and race, and provides comparisons across disease conditions.

Downloadable graphs and other information are also available on the website and preventblindness.org also offer a free call number (800) 331-2020 for those seeking further information.

Written by Rupert Shepherd