Visual Impairment on the Rise: Why This Matters
In our annual Blue Review readership survey, some readers asked for more articles on specialty areas. In response, we’ve created a series of articles on vision impairment. Do you have suggestions for other topics? Email us!
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 3.4 million Americans aged 40 years and older are blind or visually impaired and a total of 80 million Americans have potentially blinding eye diseases. The major causes of vision loss are cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma.1 Prevent Blindness America projects these populations will grow substantially in the future; by 2032 it is estimated that the visually impaired population aged 40 and older will increase by 66% to nearly 5.1 million and the blind population will increase 59% to 2.2 million.2
People with vision loss are more likely to experience depression, diabetes, hearing impairment, stroke, falls, cognitive decline and premature death. Decreased ability to see often leads to the inability to drive, read, keep accounts and travel in unfamiliar places, thus substantially compromising quality of life. The economic cost of vision loss in the U.S., including direct costs and lost productivity, is estimated to exceed $35 billion.3
How You Can Help
- If you’re an eye care specialist, share results with your patient’s primary care physician (PCP) to help coordinate care.
- If you’re a PCP, remind your diabetic patients to get an annual eye exam as recommended by the American Diabetes Association (ADA).4
- Make sure Hadley is on your resource list.
Hadley, a 100-year-old learning destination for those facing vision loss, offers short workshops covering everyday activities like using a smart phone, marking medications or kitchen safety. Experts from the field of vision loss staff all workshops and readily address personalized questions, whether received online, on the phone or in the mail. As a privately funded nonprofit, Hadley provides workshops completely free of charge. For more information about Hadley, visit their website, call 800-323-4238 or email them.
Other Resources for Our Members
In addition to vision benefits that vary by plan, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois (BCBSIL), offers members discounts on laser eye surgery, eye exams, contacts and frames through Blue365®. No referral is necessary and there’s no limit to the number of times members can receive discounts on purchases.
BCBSIL is also working with Esperanza Health Centers and five other clinics in the Chicago area to help improve screening rates for diabetic retinopathy. The clinics offer free diabetic retinopathy screenings to BCBSIL members and non-members.
1 CDC, Vision Loss: A Public Health Problem, June 12, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/visionhealth/basic_information/vision_loss.htm
2 Prevent Blindness America, The Future of Vision, June 2014. https://preventblindness.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Future_of_Vision_final_0.pdf
3 Rein DB, Zhang P, Wirth KE, et al. The economic burden of major adult visual disorders in the United States. Arch.Ophthalmol 2006;124(12):1754–1760.
4 ADA, Focus on diabetes. Look closer at eye health. 2021. https://eyehealth.diabetes.org/
The above material is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for the independent medical judgment of a physician or other health care provider. Physicians and other health care providers are encouraged to use their own medical judgment based upon all available information and the condition of the patient in determining the appropriate course of treatment. The fact that a service or treatment is described in this material is not a guarantee that the service or treatment is a covered benefit and members should refer to their certificate of coverage for more details, including benefits, limitations and exclusions. Regardless of benefits, the final decision about any service or treatment is between the member and their health care provider.
Blue365 is a discount-only program for BCBSIL members. Discounts are only given through vendors that take part in this program. BCBSIL does not guarantee or make any claims or recommendations about the program’s services or products. Members are advised to consult their doctor before using these services and products. Some of the services offered through this program may be covered under some members’ health benefit plans. Members should check their benefit booklet or call the Customer Service number on their BCBSIL ID card for specific benefit facts.