Visual impairment cases 'are on the decline'

29 June 2012

Eyecare has improved over the past few decades, at least in the US, a new study carried out in the country has highlighted.

Researchers at the Northwestern University, in Chicago, have found that the senior citizens of today are reporting less problems with their eyesight than what old people were experiencing a generation ago.

A study by the team at the university’s medical school pointed out that 23 per cent of older people cited difficulty with reading or seeing the print on a newspaper back in 1984.

However, in 2010 this rate had dropped to a point where just 9.7 per cent of elderly citizens admitted to going through the same problem.

When the researchers adjusted the age over the 26-year period, it was highlighted that there had been a 58 per cent decrease in this form of visual impairment.

Angelo P Tanna, first author of the study, which has been published in full in the journal Ophthalmology, commented: "From 1984 until 2010, the decrease in visual impairment in those 65 and older was highly statistically significant. There was little change in visual impairments in adults under the age of 65."

Reading was not the only activity which elderly citizens in the US are able to pursue with more efficiency now.

According to the Northwestern University research, more old people across the country are today able to undertake such everyday activities as bathing, getting dressed or taking a stroll inside or outside their home, than what senior citizens could achieve in the last generation.

Mr Tanna believes that there are three main reasons into why the significant improvement has been seen.

Firstly, the lead author acknowledged that the medical industry has come on leaps and bounds where finding better techniques for cataract surgery is concerned.

Adding to this is the fact that less people in the US are smoking now than in 1984, which has helped to reduce the number of people suffering from macular degeneration as they grow older.

Finally, Mr Tanna pointed out that people now have access to more treatment options for overcoming diabetic eye diseases, while traditional treatment methods for these conditions have improved over the past few decades.

The lead researcher went on to note: "The findings are exciting, because they suggest that currently used diagnostic and screening tools and therapeutic interventions for various ophthalmic diseases are helping to prolong the vision of elderly Americans."

When it comes to maintaining good eye health throughout life, Mr CT Pillai, medical director of Harley Street vision correction clinic Advanced Vision Care, has been keen to give his own insight.

The medical expert has underlined that a person's lifestyle choices will have a detrimental effect on whether their sight will remain intact as they progress into their twilight years.

Mr Pillai explained: "As well as the effects on our general health that we can feel, our lifestyle choices also affect our eyesight, but too many people don’t consider this until symptoms appear."

To change for the better, the medical specialist advised people to refrain from smoking, trying to eat healthily at all times, taking part in regular exercise and always wearing sunglasses whenever stepping into bright conditions.

Furthermore, people should always try and get their eyes tested at least once every two years. This frequency should shorten to an annual basis if a person wears glasses or contact lenses.

"As well as ensuring that your vision is the best it can be and that your glasses or contact lenses are the correct prescription, an eye test will detect sight-threatening conditions such as glaucoma, macular degeneration and retinal diabetes," Mr Pillai pointed out.

"Caught early enough, the progression of these conditions can be significantly slowed down or even halted."

Posted by Edward Bartel

Health News is provided by Adfero in collaboration with Spire Healthcare. Please note that all copy above is ©Adfero Ltd. and does not reflect views or opinions of Spire Healthcare unless explicitly stated. Additional comments on the page from individual Spire consultants do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of other consultants or Spire Healthcare.

Find a treatment, test or scan available at:


Find a consultant

Use one or more of the options below to search for a consultant and link through to view their Spire profile.


Let us help you

fill out this form and we will get back to you:

Please select a hospital

We can call you

Please enter your details below and we will call you back.

What is the aim of your enquiry?

Please select a hospital

If we are unable to reach you by phone, please include your email address so that we can get in touch...



© Spire Healthcare Group plc (2016)