Californians' vision health ranks low, USC study says

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- When was the last time you had your eyes checked? Vision care is something many of us tend to ignore until it's too late.

According to new research from USC, California ranks in the bottom 10 for visual impairment, and it's not projected to improve.

Experts say more emphasis needs to be placed on the importance of maintaining good vision health.

Getting his eyes checked is a regular part of Robert Silver's routine

"Obviously, it's something that is of concern," Silver said.

But not everyone takes their vision as seriously.

"There's a huge burden which we are going to face in the U.S.," said Dr. Rohit Varma with the USC Roski Eye Institute.

Varma and his USC colleagues said in the next 30 years, an unprecedented number of Americans will be dealing with diseases like age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and cataracts.

"The proportion of individuals that have vision loss or go blind is going to double by the year 2050," Varma said.

USC researchers say the study gives us a road map to our nation's future eye health, and it highlights the need for visual screenings and education especially in minorities and women.

"We need to do these specialized screenings so that we can find these individuals who are losing vision," Varma said.

The report finds women, African Americans and Latinos will be affected the most. Vision impairment and loss are among the costliest health conditions in the nation, running nearly $140 billion in 2013 alone.

Experts believe action needs to be taken now.

"It is extraordinarily important, I think, that eye glasses and eye care be made available as routine part of every insurance plan," Varma said.

Varma said vision problems are not a normal part of aging, and most can be corrected. Like Silver, everyone over the age of 50 should get annual eye exams to detect vision problems early.
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