9 million people will be blind, visually impaired by 2050: study

senior woman

Photo: Izabela Habur/iStockphoto

Beverly Hills, CA – The number of blind or visually impaired people in the United States is expected to double to nearly 9 million by 2050, according to a study from the University of Southern California Roski Eye Institute.

Researchers examined data from six studies as well as 2014 census and population growth projections. They found that, in 2015, 1 million Americans were legally blind, 3.2 million were visually impaired and 8.2 million had vision issues from uncorrected refractive error.

The researchers estimate that, by 2050, 16.4 million Americans will have trouble seeing because of refractive errors that can be corrected through glasses, contact lenses or surgery. In addition, the number of people with legal blindness will increase 21 percent every 10 years to 2 million people, and visual impairment will rise to 6.95 million.

People 80 and older will be most affected by visual impairment and blindness because older age is a risk factor for age-related macular degeneration and cataracts, according to a press release from the National Institutes of Health.

“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,” National Eye Institute Director Paul A. Sieving said in the release. “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.”

NEI offers the following tips for keeping eyes healthy:

  • Undergo a dilated eye exam to check for diseases.
  • Maintain a healthy weight, eat healthy food, don’t smoke and control chronic conditions.
  • Know your family's history of eye diseases.
  • Wear protective eyewear during work, chores and sports.
  • Wear sunglasses.

The study was published online May 19 in JAMA Ophthalmology.

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