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Vision Impairment, Low Vision, Serious Public Health Concerns Among Older Adults

As people age, maintaining and taking care of one's vision becomes increasingly important. According to a study published by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Vision Health Initiative(External Link), the prevalence of blindness and vision impairment increases rapidly with age among all racial and ethnic groups, particularly among people older than 75 years. Cases of age-related macular degeneration are expected to double by 2050, from 9.1 million to 17.8 million for those aged 50 years or older. Cases of diabetic retinopathy (damage to the retina caused by complications of diabetes) among people aged 65 or older are expected to quadruple by 2050, from 2.5 million to 9.9 million. The study found that, when combined with chronic health conditions such as diabetes, vision loss is associated with overall poorer health among people aged 65 or older.

Another common vision problem affecting older individuals is low vision. A 2012 report cosponsored by the National Institutes of Health estimates that 2.9 million Americans are living with low vision. The number is projected to increase 72 percent by 2030 when the last of the baby boomers turn 65. Most people with low vision are 65 years old or older.

People with low vision have difficulty accomplishing daily tasks such as reading the mail, shopping, cooking and writing, despite using glasses, contact lenses, medicine, or surgery. The chief causes of vision loss in older people are age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, cataract, and glaucoma, according to the National Eye Institute (NEI).

NEI's National Eye Health Education Program has developed a booklet and videos to educate people about low vision(External Link), urging them to seek help to maximize their remaining eyesight so that they can safely enjoy productive lives. The booklet titled, Living with Low Vision: What you should know, and videos featuring patient stories about living with low vision can be viewed and downloaded. The materials were released during Low Vision Awareness Month, February 2013.

Read a list of simple tips for healthy eyes.(External Link)