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USA Eye Health

The State of Vision and Eye Health in the United States 

The United States is not exempt from the perils of eye diseases. Of note is diabetes and its retinopathy sequala. Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in the United States, followed by age related macular degeneration, glaucoma, and traumatic injuries. The National Opinion Research Center (NORC) forecast that the prevalence and cost of vision problems in the US would increase with disparities in four major eye diseases. Notably, visual impairment and blindness were projected to increase by 65% and 59%, respectively, by the year 2032. This and other studies suggest that vision loss is a serious public health problem in the US that will worsen without intervention. 


While failure to receive eye care in the United States has largely been attributed to the lack of insurance coverage and access. There are a substantial number of people who have simply never thought of it as necessary[MO2]  and thus have “No reason to go” to visit an eye care professional. “I have not thought about it” or “have not gotten around to it. “I don’t have any problems seeing” or “I can get my glasses from the store” are some common statements among the general public regarding eye care and glasses acquisition.

Chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension burdens communities and while the public is moderately aware of these conditions their ocular implications when mentioned is often a surprise.


Despite efforts’ to catch vision problems early on among school children, studies have found lack of follow-ups with eye care professionals even after a child has failed school vision screenings. Perceptual barriers to care and parental perceptions of vision problems are significant barriers to follow-up vision exams. Kimel reported that reasons why parents fail to seek care for their kids after they have failed school screenings include parents did not think the results were important, did not believe in the screening results and did not believe that their child had a vision problem. Some parents felt that there was no need for professional eye exam, the child already wore glasses and did not wear them so there is no need for them for another eye exam.

Prevalence of vision loss in the United States

  • 6 million Americans have vision loss and 1.08 million are blind.


  • A higher risk of vision loss among Hispanic and Black individuals than among White individuals.


  • The prevalence of vision loss varies by state, ranging from 1.3% in Maine to 3.6% in West Virginia.


  • More than 1.6 million Americans living with vision loss or blindness are younger than age 40.


  • 20% of all people older than 85 years experience permanent vision loss.


  • More females than males experience permanent vision loss or blindness.

These statistics are obtained from the vision and eye health surveillance systems


Vision Health Disparities in the United States

  • Non-Hispanic whites have a higher prevalence of Age-related macular degeneration whereas non-Hispanic blacks had a higher prevalence of diabetic-related eye disease and glaucoma


  • Older age is the most important risk factor for AMD and is the most common cause of blindness among elderly whites


  • Among adults older than 40 with Diabetes the prevalence of DR was 46% and 84% higher in blacks and Hispanic respectively when compared to whites


  • Significantly higher rates of Diabetic Retinopathy among rural versus urban areas 


  • Whites have a higher prevalence to access eye care such as cataract surgery


Find out more at the Center of Disease and Control


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