There are approximately 11 million Americans aged 12 years and older could improve their vision through proper refractive correction. And more than 3.3 million Americans aged 40 years and older are either legally blind or are with low vision . Today the leading causes of blindness and low vision in the United States are primarily age-related eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration, cataract, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma. There are other common eye disorders to be aware of too!
Refractive errors, the most frequent eye problems in the U.S., include myopia (near-sightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), astigmatism (distorted vision at all distances), and presbyopia (occurs between age 40–50 years, the loss of the ability to focus up close) can all be corrected by eyeglasses, contact lenses, or in some cases surgery. Studies conducted by the National Eye Institute (NEI) showed that proper refractive correction could improve vision among 11 million Americans aged 12 years and older.
Age Related Macular Degeneration
Macular degeneration or age-related macular degeneration (AMD), is an eye disorder associated with aging and it results in damaging sharp and central vision. Central vision is needed for seeing objects clearly and for common daily tasks such as reading and driving. AMD affects the macula, the central part the retina that allows the eye to see fine details. There are two forms of AMD—wet and dry. An estimated 1.8 million Americans aged 40 years and older are affected by AMD and an additional 7.3 million with large drusen are at substantial risk of developing AMD. The number of people with AMD is estimated to reach 2.95 million in 2020. AMD is the leading cause of permanent impairment of reading and fine or close-up vision among people aged 65 years and older.
Cataract is a clouding of the eye’s lens and is the leading cause of blindness worldwide, and the leading cause of vision loss in the United States. Cataracts can occur at any age because of a variety of reasons, and can they be present at birth. Treatment for the removal of cataract is widely available though, access barriers such as insurance coverage, treatment costs, patient choice, or lack of awareness may prevent many people from receiving the proper treatment. It is estimated that 20.5 million (17.2%) Americans aged 40 years and older have cataract in one or both eyes, and 6.1 million (5.1%) have had their lens replaced. The total number of people who have cataracts is estimated to increase to 30.1 million by 2020.
Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is a common complication of diabetes. It is the leading cause of blindness in American adults. It is characterized by progressive damage to the blood vessels of the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye that is necessary for good vision. DR progresses through four stages, from mild to severe. Diabetic retinopathy usually affects both eyes. The risks of DR are reduced through disease management that includes good control of blood sugar, blood pressure, and lipid abnormalities. DR is the leading cause of blindness among U.S. working-aged adults aged 20–74 years. An estimated 4.1 million and 899,000 Americans are affected by retinopathy and vision-threatening retinopathy, respectively.
Glaucoma is a group of diseases that can damage the eye’s optic nerve and result in vision loss and blindness. Glaucoma occurs when the normal fluid pressure inside the eyes slowly rises. However, recent findings now show that glaucoma can occur with normal eye pressure. There are two major categories “open angle” and “closed angle” glaucoma. Open angle, is a chronic condition that progress slowly over long period of time without the person noticing vision loss until the disease is very advanced, that is why it is called “sneak thief of sight.” Angle closure can appear suddenly and is painful. Visual loss can progress quickly; however, the pain and discomfort lead patients to seek medical attention before permanent damage occurs.
Amblyopia, also referred to as “lazy eye,” is the most common cause of vision impairment in children. Amblyopia is the medical term used when the vision in one of the eyes is reduced because the eye and the brain are not working together properly. Conditions leading to amblyopia include an imbalance in the positioning of the two eyes; more nearsighted, farsighted, or astigmatic in one eye than the other eye, and rarely other eye conditions such as cataract. Unless it is successfully treated in early childhood amblyopia usually persists into adulthood, and is the most common cause of permanent one-eye vision impairment among children and young and middle-aged adults. An estimated 2%–3% of the population suffer from amblyopia.
Strabismus involves an imbalance in the positioning of the two eyes. Strabismus can cause the eyes to cross in or turn out. It is caused by a lack of coordination between the eyes. As a result, the eyes look in different directions and do not focus simultaneously on a single point. In most cases of strabismus in children, the cause is unknown. In more than half of these cases, the problem is present at or shortly after birth (congenital strabismus). When the two eyes fail to focus on the same image, there is reduced or absent depth perception and the brain may learn to ignore the input from one eye, causing permanent vision loss in that eye (one type of amblyopia).
As with any health issues, prevention and early detection is the best defense. Be sure to have your annual eye check ups and never hesitate to see your doctor if your vision changes or you have questions.
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