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CDC: Many Americans Are Skipping Eye Care

Survey Shows Cost or Lack of Insurance Are Reasons Cited for Avoiding a Visit to the Eye Doctor
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

May 19, 2011 -- A large number of people who have problems with their eyesight don't visit eye doctors because of the cost or because they don't have health insurance that covers eye care, a CDC survey shows.

The survey shows that others don't get regular eye exams because they don't think they have eye problems, or for a variety of other reasons, such as having to travel too far to see doctors or specialists or having no transportation to get to their offices.

In a study involving 11,503 adults aged 40 and over who were considered to have moderate-to-severe visual impairment, 39.8% said they had skipped seeking care in the past year because of costs or lack of insurance.

Almost 35% said they didn't seek eyesight care because they felt they didn't need it, while 4.5% said they could not get an appointment.

Lack of Insurance

The percentage of those citing cost or lack of insurance was greater among adults between 40 and 64 at 42.8%, compared to 23.3% of people 65 and older, according to the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report for May 20.

The CDC analyzed data from 21 states taking part in Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System surveys that covered the period between 2006 and 2009.

Survey participants were asked to state the last time they had their eyes examined. Those who said their last eye exam was over one year ago were asked about the main reason for not seeing an eye care professional.

The participants were considered visually impaired if they said they had trouble recognizing a friend across the street or difficulty reading newspapers, magazines, recipes, menus, or numbers on telephones.

The report says the percentage of people 65 and over saying they had no need to go to an eye doctor was 43.8% compared to 32.9% in the 40- to 64-year-old age group. And 41.7% of men said they had no need for eye care, compared to 28.7% of women.

CDC researchers said 36.9% of people who reported no age-related eye disease reported no need to go to eye doctors compared with those who reported age-related eye disease (28.2%).

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