Eye Health — 23 July 2013

A new study says the amount of money a person makes, along with their level of education, affects the quantity and quality of their eye care. It’s a trend that a public awareness campaign by the Vision Council hopes to reverse.

Researchers at the National Institutes of Health looked at data from 2002 and 2008 surveys of nearly 7,000 people who were at least 40 years old and reported any age-related eye disease.

In both years, people with lower incomes were significantly less likely than those with higher incomes to report visiting an eye doctor (63%  versus 81%) or undergo dilated eye exams (65% versus 80%). Similar results were reported for people with less than a high school education compared to those with at least a college education.

Eye_exam“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,” said Dr. Xinzhi Zhang,  PhD, of the National Institutes of Health.

“However, to benefit from these interventions people must have access to eye care.”

The study was published online in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology.

“There is a need for increased awareness about the relationship between social circumstances and [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 wrote.

Coinciding with the study, the American Optometric Association has launched its Think About Your Eyes initiative, designed to educate the public on the benefits of vision health, and promote the importance of getting an annual eye exam.

The national campaign comes on the heels of a two year pilot program that organizers say reached about 25 percent of the country. It encouraged millions to see their eye doctor, and helped lead to the discovery of more than 367,000 previously undiagnosed cases of eye disease.

Among the facts the initiative sponsors hope to shed light on:

  • Eyes are the only part of the body where eye doctors can look directly at internal, functioning blood vessels that offer clues and warning sigtns of serious diseases such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, and even some types of cancer.
  • 75 percent of the world’s blindness is preventable.
  • More than 50 million Americans are at a high risk of serious vision loss due to eye diseases.
  • 1 in 4 children has a vision problem that can interfere with learning and behavior.
  • 24 million Americans have diabetes, which can lead to vision loss and blindness.
  • Vision disability is one of the top ten disabilities among adults 18 years and older.

“We are thrilled to bring this important eye health initiative to life on a national scale,” said Ed Greene, chief executive officer of The Vision Council. “The message we want to share is that annual comprehensive eye exams are as important as a person’s regular physical.”

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Richard Lenti

Richard Lenti has worked as a news writer for the last 20 years at various television stations in Los Angeles. He is a Golden Mike winner and a graduate of California State University, Fresno. With roots in print journalism, Richard is excited to be “published” once again; having people read his work as opposed to having it read to them. As a freelance writer his work has appeared in the Easy Reader, L.A. Jazz Scene, Irrigation and Green Industry, and the KCAL 9 Online website.

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