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The Financial Burden of Eye Disease

Friday, May 11, 2012

The National Eye Institute (NEI) estimated that the annual cost of vision impairment to the United States private and public sector exceeds $68 billion. And this number does not fully quantify the impact of lost productivity, diminished quality of life, increased depression and accelerated mortality.

This financial burden is expected to increase dramatically by the year 2020, as the number of seniors' increases. The National Eye Institute (NEI) recognizes vision impairment as a major public health problem that is:

  • Growing ever larger due to an aging population;

  • Disproportionately incident in minority population;

  • A significant co-morbid condition from the epidemic of diabetes, specifically diabetic retinopathy.

In public opinion polls over the past 40 years, Americans have consistently identified fear of vision loss as second only to fear of cancer. Blindness or low vision currently affects more than three million Americans age 40+, or one in 28, and is projected to reach 5.5 million by the year 2020.

The societal implications of visual impairment are important because last census counted more than 119 million Americans age 40+ who are most at risk.

The ever expanding population at risk of vision loss increasingly demands more focus on developing lifestyle habits that support eye health, as well as new and more effective therapies that support the prevention of vision loss.

Ellen Troyer with Spencer Thornton, MD, and the Biosyntrx staff


 Given that vision loss is projected to quickly become one of the major health problems in this country - it becomes imperative that eye health researchers and eye care professionals focus on degenerative disease prevention. Patient education that explains the eye health benefits of lifestyle choices that include smoking cessation, healthy diets, nutrient intake, weight control, exercise, stress reduction and limited alcohol intake should become a major part of every eye exam. We urge our Friday Pearl readers to become an advocate for vision research through the National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research


James Jorkasky, Executive Director, National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research