Recent estimates reveal uncorrectable visual acuity loss and blindness are even larger drivers of the health burden in the United States than previously believed. Concerned about the lack of a recent empirical estimate of VA loss or blindness in the United States, researchers conducted an analysis that estimated, in 2017, there were 7.08 million people living with VA loss, of whom 1.08 million were living with blindness.
The study compiled data from the American Community Survey (2017), National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (1999-2008) and National Survey of Children’s Health (2017), as well as population-based studies (2000-2013).
The meta-analysis generated an estimated US prevalence of 7.08 million people living with VA loss (BCVA in the worse-seeing eye with a Snellen score of 20/40 or worse), or a crude prevalence rate of 2.17%. The national prevalence level of VA loss or blindness increased as a function of age, from 0.74% among people younger than 12 years to 0.99% among individuals aged 50 to 54 years and 20.73% among patients aged 85 years and older. “We estimated 1.62 million persons with VA loss or blindness are younger than 40 years,” the researchers noted. “This constitutes 22.89% of all persons with VA loss or blindness.”
Of this larger group, 1.08 million people were living with blindness (BCVA of 1.0 logMAR or greater, Snellen score of 20/200 or greater), or a crude prevalence rate of 0.33%. Also, 141,000 individuals with blindness were younger than 40 years. The crude prevalence rate of blindness increased substantially as a function of age, from 0.05% among people 12 years and younger to 0.11% among individuals aged 50 to 54 years and 5.50% among patients 85 years and older.
“Efforts to collect new examination-based information on BCVA in the better-seeing eye would enhance future efforts to create more precise national and state estimates of VA loss or blindness,” the researchers concluded in their paper. “This evidence base could be valuable for targeted efforts to prevent or treat these conditions.”
Flaxman AD, Wittenborn JS, Robalik T, et al.Prevalence of visual acuity loss or blindness in the US: a Bayesian meta-analysis. JAMA Ophthalmol. May 13, 2021. [Epub ahead of print].