Understanding the Prevalence of Eye Disease: American Health Assistance Foundation Sponsors Glaucoma Data in Important New Data Source

  • Press Release
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CLARKSBURG, MD-The newly released Vision Problems in the U.S. report provides updated, state-by-state calculations on the prevalence of vision diseases.

The report provides a range of information on several diseases including glaucoma and macular degeneration, and it offers detailed prevalence data by categories including age, race, and gender.

The American Health Assistance Foundation sponsored the recalculations related to glaucoma, while major funding for the larger project was provided by the National Eye Institute. Prevalence estimates were led by scientists at Johns Hopkins University, with data contributed by dozens of scientists from all over the world.

For more information, see the Vision Problems in the U.S. website: www.visionproblemsus.org

Interpreting the New Data

Open Angle Glaucoma:

The report authors estimate that approximately 2.72 million Americans age 40 and older have open angle glaucoma (OAG), the most prevalent form of glaucoma. Perhaps half of the people living with glaucoma are unaware of their disease. The new estimates include those who have, and those who have not, been diagnosed.

Macular Degeneration:

More than 2 million people, aged 50 and older, are living with the most advanced forms of macular degeneration.* The new data reveal that more than two million people aged 50 and older suffer from the most advanced forms of the disease.

The high prevalence of undiagnosed eye diseases leads to public health problems caused by untreated vision loss, such as injuries due to falls and motor vehicle accidents. This is the first time estimates of the prevalence of eye disease have been made on a state-by-state basis, helping to inform targeted public health programs in high prevalence areas.

Background on the Summit and the Report

The report was presented at the “Focus on Eye Health: A National Summit” on June 20 in Washington, DC. The American Health Assistance Foundation participated in the event, hosted by Prevent Blindness America, which was a key launching pad for the newly revised public health data. AHAF also co-sponsored the evening's Eyes on Capitol Hill Congressional Vision Caucus (CVC) reception, bringing together people directly impacted by vision loss and their government representatives. The CVC is a bicameral and bipartisan coalition of more than 100 Congressional Members dedicated to strengthening and stimulating a national dialogue and policy on vision-related problems and disabilities.

The event served to remind policymakers that the number of Americans at risk for age-related eye diseases is increasing significantly as the baby boomer generation ages. As if the health impact were not enough, blindness and vision impairment represent a significant financial burden to individuals and society.

Despite alarming rates of prevalence and cost-and the lack of understanding of eye disease and preventive behavior-the public resources for vision and eye health prevention, research, and care have been diminished. This past year alone, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) saw a drastic reduction in funding dedicated to national vision and eye health efforts, with a drop from an already low $3.2 million to an alarming $511,000.

The patient-advocacy groups involved in the Focus on Eye Summit hope and expect that well-informed policymakers will develop better policies and interventions for preventing and treating vision problems. Unless appropriate preventive steps are taken, costs will burgeon as the population of the U.S. ages and life expectancy increases. The number of U.S. residents with impaired vision, including blindness, could more than double over the next three decades.

AHAF welcomes the new information, which improves our understanding of the scope of major vision diseases in the United States.

*New macular degeneration estimates added June 2012.

About the American Health Assistance Foundation

 The American Health Assistance Foundation (https://www.brightfocus.org/) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to finding cures for age-related degenerative diseases by funding research worldwide under its three program areas: Alzheimer's Disease Research, Macular Degeneration Research, and National Glaucoma Research. AHAF also provides public information about these diseases.

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