Medicare does not cover vision care, and most studies of people with chronic conditions overlook the burden of not being able to see clearly. A 2015 JAMA report looks at the handicap of visual impairment relative to other chronic diseases. The researchers find that vision is important to quality of life, and vision impairment is a public health burden that warrants more consideration in public health policies.
To assess the burden of vision impairment the researchers surveyed individuals to get a measure of quality-adjusted life years rather than mortality or disability. Survey results showed that after osteoarthritis/rheumatoid arthritis and stroke, vision impairment presented the greatest burden to people. Vision impairment affects people’s health-related quality of life a lot more than other chronic diseases. Its burden is substantial.
If we are to prioritize the expenditure of health care resources, we need to understand which chronic diseases impose the greatest burdens. Today, there are about one million blind people and another 3.2 million people with visual impairments.
With the population aging, the National Eye Institute (NEI), a division of the National Institutes of Health, projects that about seven million people will be visually impaired by 2030. People 80 and older are most likely to be affected by visual impairment or blindness.
“Early detection and intervention — possibly as simple as prescribing corrective lenses — could go a long way toward preventing a significant proportion of avoidable vision loss,” according to NEI Director Paul A. Sieving, M.D., Ph.D.
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