NEW YORK—According to a new survey, an overwhelming 82 percent of Americans fear losing their vision more than any other of the five senses. Additionally, a majority of those surveyed reported getting an annual eye exam yet 86 percent of those who have (or are at-risk for) eye disease fear losing their vision and do not get an annual eye exam, according to Lighthouse International, the non-profit organization which released the survey, conducted by Harris Interactive, on Oct. 19.

The study, which features public response regarding health and other key national issues, was conducted by telephone in September 2010 for Lighthouse International. It also explored barriers against vision testing and key behaviors that contribute to vision loss (i.e. smoking or lack of exercise) with the 1,004 participating adults.
Of those who fear losing their vision (82 percent of those questioned) 86 percent say they, or a family member, have an eye disease, high blood pressure or diabetes. 85 percent say they have high cholesterol. However, none of these respondents get an annual eye exam, per the survey’s findings.

Bruce Rosenthal, OD, FAAO, chief of low vision services for Lighthouse International, explained that 24 million Americans have diabetes; a disease he says can lead to vision loss and blindness. “In addition, people who have high cholesterol or high blood pressure are at much greater risk of adversely affecting and compromising the blood vessels in their eyes, which can lead to serious vision loss,” he said.

Looking into exactly why Americans do not get regular eye exams, the survey shows that for 31 percent of participants, the barrier comes from not having vision trouble. Additional answers include not having insurance, thinking an exam is too costly and not having the time to have their eyes examined.

“This is a disturbing finding, since a comprehensive, annual eye exam is the most important step to preserving vision,” said Mark G. Ackermann, president and CEO of Lighthouse International. He added, “Due to an increase in the number of aging Baby Boomers and the growing prevalence of such diseases as diabetes and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), some 61 million Americans are at high risk of serious vision loss.” 

Fortunately, the survey does reveal some hope for the vision care of America’s population. When asked “What would motivate you to take better care of you eyesight?” respondents said they would get an eye exam in any of the following situations:
  • A problem or change in my vision – 62%
  • Having health insurance that covered eye exams – 58%
  • Knowing that an annual exam could help detect of prevent vision loss – 56%
  • Knowing that an eye exam could detect other health problems – 53% 

“Many people are misinformed about eye diseases and 80 percent of vision loss is preventable,” explained Rosenthal. He added that eye diseases such as glaucoma have few symptoms and recommended that Americans get an annual exam even if they do not perceive any vision problems or changes. “Especially if you have a family history,” Rosenthal stressed.  
For more information contact Lighthouse International at (800) 829-0500.   

Delia Paunescu, Associate Editor