By 2050, the number of people in the United States with visual impairment or blindness will double to more than 8 million, according to a study published in JAMA Ophthalmology.
An additional 16.4 million people are projected to have vision problems due to uncorrected refractive errors.
The study included data on adults aged 40 years and older, taken from 6 major population-based studies on visual impairment and blindness in the United States. Using U.S. Census projections from January 1, 2015, through December 31, 2050, the researchers reported the prevalence of visual impairment and blindness by age, sex, race/ethnicity, and per capita prevalence by state.
The study authors estimated that in the United States in 2015, 1.02 million people were legally blind, 3.22 million people who had visual impairment (20/40 or worse vision with best possible correction), and 8.2 million people with vision problems due to uncorrected refractive errors.
The researchers project that the number of people with blindness will increase by 21% every decade, reaching 2 million by 2050; the number of people with visual impairment will increase by 25% each decade, reaching 6.95 million by 2050; and the number of people with vision problems due to uncorrected refractive errors will double to 16.4 million in 2050.
Non-Hispanic whites, particularly white women, represent the largest proportion of people affected by blindness and visual impairment, and this will hold true in 2050. African-Americans have the second-highest proportion of visual impairment, but this will shift to Hispanics by 2040. African-Americans have the second-highest proportion of blindness, and this will continue into 2050.
“These findings are an important forewarning of the magnitude of vision loss to come. They suggest that there is a huge opportunity for screening efforts to identify people with correctable vision problems and early signs of eye diseases. Early detection and intervention — possibly as simple as prescribing corrective lenses — could go a long way toward preventing a significant proportion of avoidable vision loss,” said Paul A. Sieving, MD, PhD, director of the National Eye Institute.
- Varma R, Vajaranant TS, Burkemper B, et al. Visual impairment and blindness in adults in the United States: demographic and geographic variations from 2015 to 2050. JAMA Ophthalmol. Published online May 19, 2016. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2016.1284.