Significant differences in the use of eye care services by socioeconomic position (SEP) persist among U.S. adults with eye diseases, according to a report published by JAMA Ophthalmology, a JAMA Network publication.

Advances in the past few decades have made vision loss due to age-related eye diseases, particularly macular degeneration, cataract, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma preventable, treatable and in the case of cataracts, even reversible. To benefit from these interventions, however, individuals must have access to eye care, Xinzhi Zhang, M.D., Ph.D., of the National Institutes of Health and colleagues write in the study background.

The study sample included U.S. participants in the 2002 (n=3,586) and the 2008 (n=3,104) National Health Interview Survey who were at least 40 years old and reported any age-related eye disease.

According to study results, in 2002, persons with age-related eye disease and a poverty-income ratio (PIR, an index that compares family income with the poverty threshold established by the Census Bureau+) of less than 1.50 were significantly less likely than those with a PIR of at least 5 to report visiting an eye care clinician (62.7 percent versus 80.1 percent) or undergoing dilated eye examination in the past 12 months (64.3 percent versus 80.4 percent). Similarly, persons with less than a high school education were less likely than those with at least a college education to report a visit to an eye care clinician (62.9 percent versus 80.8 percent) or dialed eye examination (64.8 percent versus 81.4 percent). In 2002, the slope index of inequality showed statistically significant differences for eye care clinician visits across the levels of education, and in 2008, it showed a significant difference for eye care clinician visits across the levels of educational attainment.

"There is a need for increased awareness about the relationship between social circumstances and ARED [age-related eye disease] and for more research to determine how income and educational inequalities affect health-seeking behavior at the community and individual level over time," the authors conclude.