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RESEARCH STUDY

RESEARCH

Visual Impairment and Blindness in Adults in the United States: Demographic and Geographic Variations From 2015 to 2050

AUTHOR:

Varma R, Vajaranant TS, Burkemper B, Wu S, Torres M, Hsu C, Choudhury F, McKean-Cowdin R.

SPONSOR/INSTITUTION:

National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, and Research to Prevent Blindness, New York, NY

YEAR PUBLISHED:

2016

PUBLICATION:

JAMA Ophthalmol

KEY HIGHLIGHTS:

  • This paper describes the current and projected prevalence of visual impairment (VI) (visual acuity worse than 20/40, but better than 20/200) and blindness (visual acuity 20/200 or worse) in the United States.

  • The objective of the study is to determine the demographic and geographic variations in VI and blindness in adults in the US population in 2015 and to estimate the projected prevalence through 2050.

  • Data was obtained from adults, 40 years and older, from six major population-based studies on VI and blindness in the US.

  • Prevalence of VI and blindness were reported by age, sex, race/ethnicity, and per capita prevalence by state, using the US census projections (2015 – 2050).

  • In 2015, 1.02 million people were blind, and approximately 3.22 million people in the US had VI (best-corrected VA in the better-seeing eye), while up to 8.2 million people had VI due to uncorrected refractive error. By 2050, the number of these conditions are projected to double to approximately 2.01 million people with blindness, 6.95 million people with VI, and 16.4 million with VI due to uncorrected refractive error. The highest numbers of these conditions are predicted among non-Hispanic whites, women, and older adults, however African Americans are projected to experience the highest prevalence of blindness.

  • By 2050, the highest prevalence of VI among minorities will shift from African Americans to Hispanics. From 2015-2050, the states projected to have the highest per-capita prevalence of VI are Florida and Hawaii and highest projected per capita prevalence of blindness are Mississippi, Louisiana, and Florida.

  • These data suggest that vision screening for refractive error and early eye disease may reduce or prevent a high proportion of individuals from experiencing unnecessary vision loss and blindness, decrease associated costs to the US economy for medical services and lost productivity, and contribute to better quality of life.

  • Targeted education and screening programs for non-Hispanic white women and minorities should become increasingly important due to the projected growth of these populations and their relative contribution to the overall numbers of these conditions.