The Growing Crisis of Visual Disorders in Seniors

Along with a host of other conditions such as diabetes, obesity and dementia, age-related eye disease is a growing health care issue, especially for older people. Forty million people worldwide are blind or have significant visual impairment.

The vast majority of them – 82 percent of those who are blind and 65 percent of those who are visually impaired – are over 50. Researchers worldwide are working on "the aging eye" to address unmet needs of patients and to make scientific findings a reality in the eye doctor's office.

Those efforts are outlined in a special issue of Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science (IOVS). “With an aging world population and startling increases in the prevalence of diseases such as diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration, we feel that this issue is both important and timely, with chapters highlighting problems in and possible solutions to age-related diseases that affect all the major tissues of the eye,“ said Gerald Chader, PhD, FARVO, chief scientific officer at the Doheny Eye Institute at the University of Southern California and medical director of the Ocular Research Symposia Foundation (ORSF).

The IOVS issue includes new research on the genetics, biology, biochemistry, neurochemistry and the impact of nutrition and the environment on the older eye. Researchers also address the economics of vision loss. The report found that by 2015, over 10 million Americans will be blind or have significant visual impairment. Direct medical costs of retinal disorders in 2013 were approximately $8.7 billion. Chader said the IOVS issue will help identify “low-hanging fruit” research opportunities and spur funding at basic research and clinical levels. 

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