Aging Baby Boomers Unaware of Eye Risk
Big Rise in Age-Related Eye Diseases Expected
WebMD News Archive
July 31, 2007 -- Few aging baby boomers are aware of their risk of
age-related eye diseases or are doing what they need to do to protect their
This was the finding from a national survey released today by the American
Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) to coincide with new eye disease screening
recommendations for adults and the launching of a nationwide public education
The academy now recommends that adults with no obvious signs or risk factors
for eye disease see an ophthalmologist for a baseline screening at age 40.
The AAO’s Marguerite McDonald, MD, says educating baby boomers about their
risk for age-related eye diseases and vision loss is critical because more than
half will develop one of the diseases over their lifetimes.
McDonald is clinical professor of ophthalmology at Tulane University Health
Sciences Center in New Orleans.
“There are 76 million boomers and the first one turned 60 last year,” she
tells WebMD. “Since then, 330 boomers have turned 60 every hour. This is a
looming health crisis, but almost all of these [age-related] conditions can be
successfully treated when diagnosed early.”
Aging Eyes = Higher Risk
McDonald said the survey results show that most Americans know very little
about the five main age-related eye diseases: cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic
retinopathy, dry eye, and age-related macular degeneration.
The group estimates that by 2020, 43 million people in the U.S. will suffer
from age-related eye diseases, compared with 28 million today.
In addition to age, major risk factors include a family history of eye
disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
Among the major findings from the survey of 1,200 adults:
- Despite the fact that age is one of the largest risk factors for eye
disease, only 10% of people aged 65 or older considered themselves at high
- More than a third of people in this age group said they did not get annual
- Just 17% of people with a family history of eye disease saw themselves as
being at high risk, suggesting that they did not know family history was a
strong risk factor for age-related eye disease.
- 42% of those who answered the survey didn’t know that diabetes was a risk
factor for diabetic retinopathy, which is a leading cause of
- Just one in four African-Americans, Hispanics, and Asians surveyed knew
that their ethnicity put them at higher-than-average risk for
- Only 14% of people who did not wear glasses considered themselves at
moderate to high risk for eye disease. Good vision in early to middle adulthood
has little bearing on risk for age-related eye disease.
Boomers in the Dark
Fewer than one in seven people surveyed (15%) correctly identified at least
half of the listed risk factors for age-related eye diseases.
“The survey shows that Americans are more worried about losing weight or
back pain than the possibility of losing their vision,” San Francisco
ophthalmologist and AAO spokesman Andrew Iwach, MD, tells WebMD.
The world’s largest association of eye physicians and surgeons, the AAO has
launched a new web site -- www.geteyesmart.org
-- in its effort to open the public’s eyes about age-related vision
Remaining in the dark, Iwach says, will needlessly increase millions of
aging baby boomers' risk of losing their sight.
“The good news is that we are living longer,” he says. “The bad new is that
our parts aren’t all lasting so we have to put the effort into maintaining
them. People have no problem getting their oil changed when their car is
running fine, but they usually don’t think about their vision until there is a