73 Percent of Americans Lack Awareness about Vision Problem

Survey: 73 Percent of Americans Lack Awareness about Vision Problem Affecting Millions; Optometrists Concerned about Effects of Untreated Vision Impairment

A new survey shows that many Americans have little, if any, knowledge of low vision, a term that describes vision loss that cannot be restored with conventional eye glasses, contact lenses, drug therapy or eye surgery and affects 16.5 million people.

Based on the survey commissioned by the American Optometric Association (AOA) of U.S. adults, 73 percent of Americans do not know what low vision is. Only 21 percent of African-American respondents, a high-risk group for acquiring low vision, know what low vision is.

The findings will be presented at the American Optometric Association’s annual Optometry’s Meeting in Grapevine, Texas.

“This is of serious concern for optometrists who work every day to preserve the overall eye health and vision potential of the American public,” said R. Tracy Williams, O.D., chair-elect of the AOA Low Vision Rehabilitation Section. “Being affected by low vision can greatly impact an individual’s quality of life and opportunities to achieve educational, employment and independent living goals with dignity. Low vision interferes with ordinary activities such as writing, watching television, driving and reading.”

When traditional treatments such as corrective eyewear, medicine or surgery cannot cure eye disorders, low vision rehabilitation is a viable treatment that can favorably maximize sight and improve quality of life.

“Losing the ability to drive safely or see a computer screen due to low vision can leave many feeling like they are losing their independence,” says Dr. Williams. “In addition, not being able to cure vision loss can make patients lose hope. But the good news is there is hope for treating the condition supported by science in the form of low vision rehabilitation.”

Low Vision Rehabilitation is Treatment for Visual Impairment According to the AOA, the first line of defense is having an annual, comprehensive eye examination. If vision loss is determined, the second step is to see a doctor of optometry who specializes in the examination, treatment and management of patients with low vision and other visual impairments. The low vision rehabilitation doctor develops the individual rehabilitation plan, provides supervision and offers referrals for teaching, counseling, adaptive technology, safe travel and other activities associated with daily living.

Low vision has a variety of causes, including eye injury, eye disease and heredity, and can affect all age groups. Common symptoms of low vision include loss of central vision, loss of peripheral (side) vision, blurred vision, generalized haze (sensation of film/glare), extreme light sensitivity and night blindness.
“Any person who cannot meet their functional daily needs with conventional methods of eye correction should be considered for low vision rehabilitation, and early intervention is the key,” says Dr. Williams. “There are exciting prescriptive devices and adaptive technology that can help children become competitive in the classroom, adults gain or retain employment, and seniors enjoy their golden years.”

According to the National Eye Health Education Program, the vast majority of people age 65 and older with low vision are unaware of services and devices that could help them improve the quality of their lives. They say the need for information will increase as the number of Americans who are at greatest risk, those ages 65 and older, doubles over the next 30 years.

In addition to the low vision results, the survey commissioned by the AOA also revealed the following:

  • Adults surveyed believe that on average, reading vision begins to deteriorate at age 39. In reality, the AOA reports that reading vision typically starts deteriorating in the mid-forties and early-fifties. Presbyopia is the name for the common eye condition that causes middle-aged people to be reliant upon reading glasses. On average, presbyopia develops by the time a person is 50.

The survey also revealed regional, age and social disparities in eye health awareness levels. For example:

  • Higher income households (those with incomes of $75K or more), which generally tend to be more educated, answered more questions incorrectly than some of the lowest income households surveyed.
  • Adults in the North Central region were the least familiar with the appropriate time when a person should receive their first eye exam than those living elsewhere. More than 81 percent of respondents in the North Central region answered this question incorrectly.

The vast majority of 35- to 44-year-olds responded incorrectly as to what low vision is.

  • Only 19 percent of 35-44 year-olds (an age group quickly approaching vision deterioration) are aware of the age at which reading vision begins to deteriorate.

Harris Interactive conducted the telephone survey for the American Optometric Association between May 12 and 15, 2005, among a nationwide cross selection of 1,018 U.S. adults ages 18 and over. Figures for age, sex, race and region were weighted where necessary to align them with their actual proportions in the population. In theory, with a probability sample of this size, one can say with 95 percent certainty that the results for the overall sample have a sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. Sampling error for the sub-samples of men (505), women (513), adults with household incomes of $75,000 or more (216), and adults who live in the North Central region (233) and Northeast region (202) or the U.S. is higher and varies.

From: U.S. Newswire

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