In keeping with Protect Ohio’s Aging Eyes Month, the Ohio Department of Aging is raising awareness of age-related eye diseases and the impacts it has on individuals’ quality of life and ability to live independently.
The department joins Ohio’s Aging Eye Public Private Partnership in urging all Ohioans over age 40 to begin talking with their eye care professionals about age-related eye diseases and making lifestyle changes to reduce their risk.
Age-related eye diseases include age-related macular degeneration, cataract, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma. About 13.7 percent of Ohioans age 65 and older are affected, and that rate is expected to double by 2030. Most of these conditions do not exhibit any initial symptoms before vision loss occurs. In most cases, vision lost cannot be recovered.
“There are few medical conditions that Ohioans fear more than vision impairment, and the sheer numbers of our aging population mean that we must do all we can to promote vision health throughout the lifespan,” said Bonnie Kantor-Burman, director of the department. “Decreased eyesight does not have to be a part of growing older; half of all blindness can be prevented. A healthy, active lifestyle and regular eye exams with pupil dilation are the best defenses.”
Director Kantor-Burman is co-chair of Ohio’s Aging Eye Public Private Partnership. The partnership is coordinated by Prevent Blindness Ohio and is a collaboration of state agencies, legislators, industry associations and health and vision experts that strives to reduce the incidence of age-related eye diseases by raising awareness, shape the state’s vision care public policy, increase access to vision care services and promote education and research. Call 1-800-301-2020, ex. 112, to learn more.
The partnership provides many resources to help Ohioans preserve their vision, including Healthy U, a free chronic disease prevention program from the Ohio Departments of Health and Aging, helps participants learn proven strategies to manage chronic diseases like diabetes, which can increase the risk of eye disease. Call 1-866-243-5678 for availability in your community.
The Aging Eye Partnership’s website offers a resource guide, fact sheets and other resources on the leading causes of vision loss, as well as information about partnership activities. Visit http://ohio.preventblindness.org for more information.
Facts about age-related eye diseases in Ohio:
• Vision impairment is defined as having 20/40 or worse vision in the better eye even with eyeglasses.
• Currently, 13.7 percent of Ohioans age 65 or older report moderate or extreme vision loss.
• Vision problems cost Ohio $1.98 billion annually in direct medical and other costs.
• About 92,400 Ohioans age 50 and older suffer from age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, which creates a loss of sharp, central vision and currently has no treatment.
• Approximately 942,200 Ohioans age 40 and older have cataracts, which involve a clouding of the eye’s naturally clear lens.
• About 171,100 Ohioans age 40 and older have diabetic retinopathy, which involves abnormal growth of blood vessels in the back of the eye that can leak.
• About 93,500 Ohioans age 40 and older have glaucoma, which causes the loss of peripheral or side vision.
• The incidences of AMD, cataract, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma are expected to double by 2030.
• Smoking, diabetes and eye injuries increase the likelihood of vision problems.
• Ohioans age 65 and older who have an age-related eye disease are 50 percent more likely to experience a fall than others in their age group.
• Complete blindness - the total loss of vision with no remaining perception of light - is rare.
• “Legal blindness,” used to determine eligibility for certain disability benefits from the federal government, typically is defined as corrected visual acuity worse than or equal to 20/200 in the better eye or a visual field extent of less than 20 degrees in diameter.
• Vision loss is one of the most-feared health conditions among older adults because of the loss of independence that comes with it.