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Original Investigation
March 12, 2020

Eye Care Among US Adults at High Risk for Vision Loss in the United States in 2002 and 2017

Author Affiliations
  • 1Division of Diabetes Translation, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia
  • 2Now with the Division of Diabetes Translation, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hyattsville, Maryland
  • 3National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland
  • 4Division of Epidemiology and Clinical Applications, National Eye Institute, Intramural Research Program, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland
JAMA Ophthalmol. Published online March 12, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2020.0273
Key Points

Question  Are US adults at high risk for vision loss receiving eye care?

Findings  This survey study used data from the 2002 (n = 30 920) and 2017 (n = 32 886) National Health Interview Survey. In 2017, more than 93 million US adults were at high risk for vision loss (an increase compared with 2002); however, only 56.9% visited an eye care professional annually, and only 59.8% received a dilated eye examination. Among adults who reported needing eyeglasses, approximately 9 in 100 said they could not afford them, up slightly from 2002.

Meaning  These results suggest improvements in eye care, and affordable options for eyeglasses may prevent vision loss.

Abstract

Importance  Timely eye care can prevent unnecessary vision loss.

Objectives  To estimate the number of US adults 18 years or older at high risk for vision loss in 2017 and to evaluate use of eye care services in 2017 compared with 2002.

Design, Setting, and Participants  This survey study used data from the 2002 (n = 30 920) and 2017 (n = 32 886) National Health Interview Survey, an annual, cross-sectional, nationally representative sample of US noninstitutionalized civilians. Analysis excluded respondents younger than 18 years and those who were blind or unable to see. Covariates included age, sex, race/ethnicity, marital status, educational level, income-to-poverty ratio, health insurance status, diabetes diagnosis, vision or eye problems, and US region of residence.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Three self-reported measures were visiting an eye care professional in the past 12 months, receiving a dilated eye examination in the past 12 months, and needing but being unable to afford eyeglasses in the past 12 months. Adults at high risk for vision loss included those who were 65 years or older, self-reported a diabetes diagnosis, or had vision or eye problems. Multivariable logistic regression models incorporating sampling weights were used to investigate associations between measures and covariates. Temporal comparisons between 2002 and 2017 were derived from estimates standardized to the US 2010 census population.

Results  Among 30 920 individuals in 2002, 16.0% were 65 years or older, and 52.0% were female; among 32 886 individuals in 2017, 20.0% were 65 years or older, and 51.8% were female. In 2017, more than 93 million US adults (37.9%; 95% CI, 37.0%-38.7%) were at high risk for vision loss compared with almost 65 million (31.5%; 95% CI, 30.7%-32.3%) in 2002, a difference of 6.4 (95% CI, 5.2-7.6) percentage points. Use of eye care services improved (56.9% [95% CI, 55.7%-58.7%] reported visiting an eye care professional annually, and 59.8% [95% CI, 58.6%-61.0%] reported receiving a dilated eye examination), but 8.7% (95% CI, 8.0%-9.5%) said they could not afford eyeglasses (compared with 51.1% [95% CI, 49.9%-52.3%], 52.4% [95% CI, 51.2%-53.6%], and 8.3% [95% CI, 7.7%-8.9%], respectively, in 2002). In 2017, individuals with lower income compared with high income were more likely to report eyeglasses as unaffordable (13.6% [95% CI, 11.6%-15.9%] compared with 5.7% [95% CI, 4.9%-6.6%]).

Conclusions and Relevance  Compared with data from 2002, more US adults were at high risk for vision loss in 2017. Although more adults used eye care, a larger proportion reported eyeglasses as unaffordable. Focusing resources on populations at high risk for vision loss, increasing awareness of the importance of eye care, and making eyeglasses more affordable could promote eye health, preserve vision, and reduce disparities.

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