The exponential growth in the prevalence of low vision with age reflects the increased risk of vision loss as a result of age-related eye disease each year, according to researchers utilizing data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
The 6,016 survey participants ranged from younger than 18 years to older than 45 years.
A total of 1,714 were younger than 18 years, 2,358 were 18 to 44 years old, and 1,944 were 45 years or older. Females accounted for 52% of the participants.
In older U.S. adults (at least 45 years old) in 2017, the prevalence of low vision and blindness is estimated to be 3,894,406, with a best corrected visual acuity less than 20/40; 1,483,703 individuals with a BCVA less than 20/60; and 1,082,790 individuals with a BCVA of 20/200 or less.
The estimated annual incidence of low vision in the same age group is 481,970 with a BCVA less than 20/40, 183,618 individuals with a BCVA less than 20/60, and 134,002 individuals with a BCVA of 20/200 or less.
The 2017 total incidence rate for each BCVA criterion was 12.4% of the total prevalence, translating to 481,970 cases of less than 20/40 BCVA, 183,618 cases of less than 20/60 BCVA and 134,002 cases of legal blindness, according to researchers.
The youngest group has the highest rate of presenting visual impairment in the better-seeing eye for all three BCVA categories.
The researchers agree with previous studies that indicate 85% to 96% of children with presenting visual impairments could have their BCVA corrected to greater than 20/40.
The number of new cases of visual impairment and blindness each year in older adults is more than 480,000 cases of mild low vision or worse, more than 180,000 cases of moderate low vision or worse and more than 134,000 legally blind cases.
“We expect a greater need for services for those patients with low vision as the aging population increases over the next several decades,” Chan and colleagues said.
They conclude that vision screenings for uncorrected refractive error could largely reduce the prevalence of visual impairment. – by Abigail Sutton
Disclosures: Chan reports no relevant financial disclosures. Please see the full study for all remaining authors’ financial disclosures.