In the Journals

Americans visit doctors nearly 1 million times annually for eye infections

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November 13, 2014

Americans make nearly 1 million doctor visits for eye infections annually — causing an estimated $175 million in direct health care costs, according to the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The CDC analyzed national ambulatory care and ED databases to evaluate the incidence of keratitis in the United States. It found that an estimated 930,000 doctor’s office and outpatient clinic visits and 58,000 ED visits for keratitis or contact lens disorders occurred annually. Moreover, 76.5% of keratitis visits were associated with antimicrobial prescriptions, according to the MMWR.

Among the office and outpatient clinic visits for corneal disorders, about 230,000 involved contact lenses. There were 19,000 ED visits for corneal disorders involving contact lenses; 41,000 visits for keratitis, and 25,000 visits for corneal ulcers in 2010, according to the report.

Figure 1. Americans made an estimated 930,000 visits to doctor's offices and outpatient clinics, as well as 58,000 emergency room visits, annually due to eye infections.

Source:CDC

More than half of the office visits (63.3%) and ED visits (54.7%) were made by women. Patients aged younger than 25 years made 20.5% of all visits; those aged 25 to 44 years made 29.2% of visits; patients aged 45 to 64 years made 25.3% of visits, and those aged 65 years and older made 25.1% of the visits.

Direct health care costs included $58 million for Medicare patients and $12 million for Medicaid patients. The incidence of keratitis also consumed more than 250,000 hours of clinician time each year, according to the report.