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Eye and Vision Diseases Now at Epidemic Proportions

The Pennsylvania Association for the Blind Urges Support of Vision Research

The Need

This year Congress has designated 2010-2020 as the “Decade of Vision” to acknowledge the very real public health need and challenge of vision loss. (H. Res. 366 and S. Res. 209) Over 78 million Baby Boomers will be turning 65 over the next decade and will be at risk for age-related eye diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and cataracts. In addition, the Department of Defense is addressing the reality of battlefield conditions, such as corneal healing, corneal and retinal protection, and visual dysfunction from Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) by just recently announcing the funding of $10 Million in Vision Research.

How Does Research Save Lives

In recent years research has uncovered major biochemical breakthroughs that may lead to future treatments for some of the most common causes of vision impairment.

  • Researchers have been able to identify gene variations associated with age-related macular degeneration;
  • Omega-3 fatty acids have been suggested to prevent or decrease severity of retinopathy of prematurity by protecting against abnormal blood vessel growth;
  • Studies have demonstrated that nutritional supplements such as zinc and antioxidant vitamins can reduce vision loss in people at high risk of developing advance AMD and;
  • Research has demonstrated that pressure-reducing eye drops can delay or prevent the onset of glaucoma.

The National Eye Institute is one of the leading institutes for eye and vision research with nearly 85% of their budget used for research addressing eye disorders. Established in 1968, NEI continues its research, resulting in new treatments and therapies to restore and stabilize vision. For more information on the NEI visit www.nei.nih.gov.

The Bottom Line

More than 38 million Americans age 40 and older are blind, visually impaired or have an age-related eye disease, and the number is only expected to grow as the population ages. Increased investment in eye and vision research is needed now to help reduce that number. For more information on vision research visit; www.pablind.org or call the Pennsylvania Association for the Blind at 717-766-2020.