Aging Eyes Are Seeing Better
Salynn Boyles, WebMD
has been a dramatic drop in vision
impairment among older Americans over the
last generation, new research shows.
prevalence of self-reported eyesight
issues that limit activity declined by
well over 50% in just two and a half
decades, according to data from two
nationally representative surveys.
1984, close to 1 in 4 older people
reported having problems reading newspaper
print because of vision loss, compared to
1 in 10 in 2010.
is really excellent news," says researcher
Angelo P. Tanna, MD, who is vice chair of
the department of ophthalmology at
Chicago's Northwestern University Feinberg
School of Medicine.
prevalence of activity-limiting visual
impairment is decreasing and has been
decreasing," he tells WebMD.
the study did not explore the reasons for
the reduction, Tanna says advances in
cataract surgery, declines in smoking, and
better treatments for diabetes have all
played major roles.
Richard Bensinger, MD, tells WebMD that
cataract surgery has become routine and
complications are now rare.
practices in Seattle and is a spokesman
for the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
generation ago, people waited until a
cataract was so bad that even a bad
surgical result was better than the
alternative," he says. "These days, most
people have surgery at the first sign of
1 in 5 adults in the U.S. smoke cigarettes
today, compared to 1 in 3 in the 1980s.
is a major risk factor for macular
degeneration, which is one of the most
common vision diseases in the elderly.
prevalence of age-related macular
degeneration has gone down, and studies
suggest that smoking declines are a big
reason for this," Tanna says.
is a leading cause of blindness, and age
and obesity are leading risk factors for
says even though diabetes rates in the
U.S. continue to climb, better therapies
are now available to prevent and treat
diabetes-related vision issues.
patients are getting better care than they
did in the past, and this has led to less
vision loss among people with this
is not clear if advances in screening for
age-related vision issues have contributed
to their decline.
Bensinger says regular eye exams are
important for everyone as they age,
especially people with diabetes and other
health conditions that can lead to vision
study appears in the latest issue of the