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More Americans facing blindness than ever before

March 20, 2001 Washington, DC More Americans than ever are facing the threat of blindness from age-related eye disease, a new report says. Over one million Americans aged 40 and over are currently blind and an additional 2.4 million are visually impaired. These numbers are expected to double over the next 30 years as the Baby Boomer generation ages.

The Vision Problems in the U.S. report on the prevalence of sight-threatening eye disease in Americans was released today by the National Eye Institute, in partnership with Prevent Blindness America.

Blindness and visual impairment from most eye diseases and disorders can be reduced with early detection and treatment, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy G. Thompson. Thats why eye health education programs that encourage those at high risk for eye disease to have regular dilated eye exams are essential in preventing vision loss. Healthy vision is a shared responsibility among the government, health care providers, community leaders, and the public.

The director of the National Eye Institute, Paul A. Sieving, M.D., Ph.D., called for an increase in public attention to eye disease. About one in eight Americans is 65 or older, Dr. Sieving said. When you add declining mortality rates and population shifts, such as the baby boomers, the number of older people will grow dramatically in the years ahead. Blindness and vision impairment represent not only a significant burden to those affected by sight loss, but also to the national economy as well.

The new report addresses the leading causes of vision impairment and blindness in the U.S., including:

  • Diabetic retinopathy, believed to be a leading cause of blindness in the industrialized world in people between the ages of 25 and 74. Diabetic retinopathy affects more than 5.3 million Americans age 18 and older.
  • Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the most common cause of blindness and vi
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Contact: Michael Coogan
mjc@nei.nih.gov
301-496-5248
NIH/National Eye Institute
20-Mar-2002


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