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Major visual disorders in people over 40 may be costing the US economy billions

Major visual disorders in Americans older than 40 years may cost the U.S. economy an estimated $35.4 billion a year, according to a report in the December issue of Archives of Ophthalmology, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Millions of Americans have visual impairment, blindness or other eye diseases, according to background information in the article. These diseases include age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, primary open-angle glaucoma and refractive errors, which are correctable with glasses or contact lenses. In addition to direct medical costs, other direct costs, such as nursing home health care, are related to these major visual disorders. Productivity losses also occur when individuals with visual impairment cannot work or earn lower wages.

David B. Rein, Ph.D., of RTI International, Research Triangle Park, N.C., and colleagues analyzed the financial burden of eye diseases in 2004. The researchers used private insurance and Medicare claim data to approximate direct medical costs. Evidence from published sources provided information about other direct costs, consisting of nursing home care, government purchase programs and guide dogs for the blind. Data from a national survey about labor and income were used to estimate productivity losses.

Researchers found that major visual disorders cost the U.S. an estimated $16.2 billion in direct medical costs, $11.1 billion in other direct costs and $8 billion in productivity losses, bringing the total annual financial burden to an estimated $35.4 billion. The annual governmental budgetary impact, calculated by adding the portion of the financial burden estimate produced by the government to additional amounts of social welfare payments from the federal treasury to people with visual impairment and blindness, was found to be $13.7 billion.

Direct medical costs were estimated to be approximately $6.8 billion for cataracts, $5.5 billion fo
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Contact: Lisa Bistreich
919-316-3596
JAMA and Archives Journals
11-Dec-2006


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