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  • Revised Estimate of VA Loss or Blindness in the United States

    By Jean Shaw
    Selected and reviewed by Neil M. Bressler, MD, and Deputy Editors

    Journal Highlights

    JAMA Ophthalmology, July 2021

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    Flaxman et al. set out to estimate the prevalence of visual acuity (VA) loss and blindness within the United States. They found that more than 7 million people are living with VA loss—and that, of this group, more than 1 million are living with blindness. They also found that a significant number of people with VA loss or blindness are younger than 40 years of age.

    For this study, the researchers sum­marized data from the CDC’s Vision and Eye Health Surveillance System, which includes information on visual difficulty or blindness from four na­tional surveys. Using Bayesian meta-regression methods, they then stratified the data by location (U.S. state), age, sex, and ethnicity for the year 2017.

    For all VA loss, the researchers esti­mated that 7.08 million people (95% uncertainty interval [UI], 6.32-7.89 million) live with VA loss (defined as best-corrected VA of 20/40 or worse). This corresponds to a crude preva­lence rate of 2.17% (95% UI, 1.94% to 2.42%). By location, crude prevalence rates range from 1.35% in Maine to 3.59% in West Virginia.

    In a second calculation, the research­ers found that an estimated 1.08 mil­lion people (95% UI, 0.82-1.3) live with blindness (BCVA of 20/200 or worse). This corresponds to a crude prevalence rate of 0.33% (95% UI, .02% to .4%), with state-based findings ranging from a crude prevalence of 0.19% in Utah to 0.65% in West Virginia.

    Unsurprisingly, rates of VA loss or blindness increase by age—but an estimated 1.62 million persons with VA loss are younger than 40 years, and 141,000 with blindness are younger than 40.

    Overall, the estimated number of cases of VA loss or blindness in this study is 68.7% higher than the previous estimate from the Vision Problems in the United States (VPUS) study, al­though the estimate of blindness alone is lower. (Also see related commentary by Emily Y. Chew, MD, in the same issue.)

    The original article can be found here.