The National Institute of Health (NIH), a phenomenal organization working to enhance lives and reduce illness and its associated effects, reported some very interesting ophthalmic data recently.  After reviewing many studies the NIH offers alarming news about potential increases in visual impairment or blindness by the year 2050.

The 2015 National Health Interview Survey reports more than 23 million Americans 18 and older experience vision loss. The NIH predictions offer that number of blind will increase in millions and those with visual impairment will surpass 16 million.  The leading cause of the impairment, uncorrected refractive error.

This is something that can be helped. First, it is helpful to know that the aging of the baby boom generation brings with it a rise in diseases such as diabetes and hypertension.  Those, and many other systemic disorders, have an impact on someone’s vision and eye health.  A review of the studies, however, also showed refractive error (the need for spectacle prescription) is the leading cause of visual impairment in the United States.

A call to action has been declared, particularly regarding visual impairment, in attempt to thwart those increases. What is most important is that action does not have to come only from eye care practitioners, the general public can help also.

For example, simply encouraging people to have annual eye exams is a great start. Further, consider participating and donating to local organizations that do vision screenings.  In Northeastern Pennsylvania, it is with great pride that our office is very much involved with the Greater Wilkes-Barre Association for the Blind.  Specifically, the Blind Association has a wonderful pre-school vision screening program, consistently identifying children who have visual needs and eye health issues.  Any member of the public can volunteer or donate to the Blind Association in support of this outstanding pre-school vision screening program.

Eye health care practices can also help by educating each patient on the value of a yearly, thorough eye examinations.  For those less fortunate or unable to get eye evaluations, the Blind Association has another excellent program. This vision service, of which we are proud to be founders o,  is referred to as the Gift of Sight Program.

Starting some 15 years ago, the Gift of Sight Program is essentially a clinic without walls that serves to do eye examinations to our local population not able to have or afford routine eye care.  The term ‘clinic without walls’ means that many practices are involved in helping.  If a potential patient qualifies, the Blind Association makes an effort to find a doctor in that patient’s geographical area with a local participating provider.  For further information on this or any of service please contact the Blind Association at 570-693-3555.

The NIH review is certainly alarming.  But calling to action everyone to get an annual eye examination and encourage those around them to do the same, enforces the absolute truth that something can be done about it.  Be part of that something and have your eyes examined annually, inform those in your area about prevention programs available, and follow your doctor’s suggestions for good eye health and prevention.