2012 Eye Health Summit reveals INCREASING Rate of Ocular Disease

11:06 PM

Imagine not being able to see--not even when you put on glasses!  This is what people who are legally blind face every single day.  And according to the most recent report from the National Eye Institute, the rate of blindness in Americans over age 40 has increased by 23% just since 2000.  America is an aging population, and with age comes an increased prevalence for visually devastating diseases like glaucoma and macular degeneration.  All reports show that we are not doing a good enough job at preventing vision loss before it is too late.

Central Retinal Vein Occlusion

First presented in June 2012, the Focus on Eye Health Summit report is a cooperation between Prevent Blindness America and the National Eye Institute. Their website is an accumulation of fascinating data on the prevalence of refractive errors to diseases.  A nerd like me could spend a lot of time there.  Here's a brief overview of the newest data that shows a marked increase in the prevalence of blinding disease (compared to data from 2000):
    • 22% increase in Glaucoma
    • 25% increase in Macular Degeneration
    • 19% increase in Cataracts (which affected 24 million people over age 40).  Remember cataracts are a normal aging process, and not a real disease of the eye.  They do cause severe vision loss, but vision can be improved with surgical removal of the cataract.  Click here for more details
    • 89% increase in Diabetic Retinopathy
      •  leading cause of blindness in ages 20 to 74
There is some good news despite the large increase in diabetic retinopathy: the prevalence of vision loss in diabetics is actually down since the period of 1997 to 2009.  Unfortunately more people are being diagnosed with diabetes, so even though less patients with known diabetes are having vision loss, there are more cases of diabetes than ever before being diagnosed daily.  The NEI reported that 1 in 10 American adults has diabetes, but projected forward 1 in 3 adults will be diagnosed by 2050 if the rate of new cases being diagnosed continues.  

Our best way to prevent blindness?  Detecting ocular diseases before they have a chance to destroy vision.  That means that even if you do not wear glasses, you need to have a regular ocular examination to check for ocular and systemic diseases.  The eye is the ONLY place a doctor can view your blood vessels by simply looking.  Most ocular diseases that cause permanent blindness are painless, so if you wait until you notice vision loss to be seen, you will NEVER see better than you did that day.  Scary but true.  See your eye doctor!

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    - The Ocular Cicatricial Pemphigoid