The Toll of Visual Impairment Increasing in the United States

The number of Americans suffering from visual impairment or blindness was 4.2 million in 2015 and is expected to double over the next several decades, the National Eye Institute announced last week. The Institute is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The largest group affected: white women, in part because they live longer and have more years to develop cataracts and macular degeneration.

What can you do to cut your odds of suffering from cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, and macular degeneration?

Don’t smoke. Smoking increases the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration.

Lose excess weight. People who are over­weight have a higher risk of cataracts.

Eat lutein-rich foods. Lutein may help prevent cataracts and improve visual acuity. “Getting lutein and and its twin zeaxanthinLuteinB
from a plant-rich diet with lots of green leafy vegetables is one of the best ways to preserve your eye health,” says Julie Mares, a vision researcher at the University of Wisconsin.

Be physically active. Among 52,660 Swedish women and men who were monitored for 12 years, those who walked or biked for more than an hour a day had a 12 percent lower risk of cataracts than those who hardly exercised.

Keep blood sugar and blood pressure under control. Weight loss, exercise, a healthy diet, and (if necessary) medication to lower blood sugar and blood pressure can prevent diabetic retinopathy.

Wear sunglasses. Get sunglasses that provide 100 percent protection against UV-A and UV-B radiation. Oversized or wraparound glasses are best. Don’t worry about the color of the lens.

Get your eyes checked. Every year or two, get an exam with your eyes dilated (so the doctor can see more of your retina, optic nerve, and lens).


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One Reply to “The Toll of Visual Impairment Increasing in the United States”

  1. I was diagnoses with cataracts and offered surgery as a way to fix them in 1996, I was 26 years old and my uncorrected vision was 20:400. I opted to wait until they perfected the techniques to not only remove the cataracts but also to fix my vision to almost 20:20. I finally got up the courage to let them stick a knife in my eyes in 2003, when I was told my corrected vision wasn’t good enough to pass the eye exam to renew my drivers license. Uncorrected I was legally blind, corrected I was 20:40. Keep in mind I hardly drove at all at that time. So at the ripe old age of 39 I had it done.

    I am now 53 and my vision is still 20:25 in the right and 20:30 in the left. The astigmatism is fixed and in only need glasses to see clearly what is closer than about 3 feet. I am now able to go outside and swim, hike, walk or do anything without glasses. My vision hasn’t change a bit in 13 years.

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