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Groundbreaking epidemiologic studies, led by SCEI Director Rohit Varma, MD, MPH, are yielding important information about visual impairment and eye health in America.

Vision loss often can be reduced with regular comprehensive eye exams and timely treatment, reinforcing the critical need to implement culturally appropriate programs to detect and manage eye diseases.

With funding from the National Institutes of Health and other organizations, Varma and his research teams produced the largest-ever studies in the U.S. on eye disease and their impact on Latinos, Chinese Americans, African Americans and children of multiple ethnicities.

These influential population-based studies are:

Together, the findings are transforming policies and practices related to vision health in the United States and globally.

In just one of many influential studies to emerge, researchers recently estimated that the U.S. prevalence in visual impairment (VI) and blindness is expected to double over the next 35 years.

By 2050, the number of Americans with a variety of eye diseases and impairment issues, including age-related macular degeneration (AMD), glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy (DR) and cataracts, will dramatically increase impacting both individuals and society.

Specifically, SCEI researchers estimate:

  • more than 16.4 million Americans age 40 years and older will have visual impairment due to uncorrected refractive error compared to 8.2 million in 2015;
  • more than 2 million age 40 years and older will be blind and 6.95 million will have visual impairment by 2050 compared to 1.02 million and 3.22 million respectively from 2015, and
  • women and minority populations, especially Latinos, carry the largest burden.

"If not, the long-term effects of impaired vision at early childhood that can adversely impact academic and social achievements will put future generations at a distinct disadvantage," said Varma. "This is a population health imperative."