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Get Eyesight Problems Checked Out Early, Avoid Hefty Costs Down the Line: Researchers Say

Jun 30, 2013 06:06 PM EDT
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Eyesight
Vision-related diseases are a hefty financial burden

(Photo : Creative Commons via Flickr/ akolosov)

Eyesight loss does not just affect your daily life and ability to perform tasks, it is also expensive, a new study says.

A study by Prevent Blindness America found that Americans spend $140 billion a year on eye and vision disorders such as blurred vision, age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma and cataracts.

The cost of vision-related diseases cost Americans more that what is annually spent on heart disease, Alzheimer's, diabetes and cancer.

The study noted that eyesight loss- related expenses spiked since 2007 when it cost about $51 billion per year. Researchers attribute part of the rising costs to new technology and treatments.

"The longer you live with a vision problem, the more expensive it gets," said Jeff Todd, chief operating officer of Prevent Blindness America. "Eye disorders are ranked fifth for highest cost, yet we're not getting that attention. No one dies from eye disorders, but they greatly impact quality of life."

Todd suggests that the best way to cut further rises in vision-related costs is through preventive eye care and more research.

Prevention is especially important as baby boomers are moving into the age group where vision problems are more common - problems that can lead to significant loss of eyesight and even blindness.

"What's lacking is early detection or early diagnoses. Vision problems are detected too late," said John Wittenborn, study author and research scientist at the university's research center. "Right now we can't restore vision; we can only retain vision that has not been lost, and (preventive care) can really save and prevent people from losing a significant amount of vision and money."

Some health research received an increase in government funding, including the Department of Defense's Vision Trauma Research Program. But the National Eye Institute received a $36 million cut in its $703 million budget, resulting in a possible loss of about 90 grants, "any one of which could hold the promise for saving or restoring vision," according to the National Alliance for Eye and Vision website.

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