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American Optometric Association Supports New Federal Health Report Findings: Vision Screening Methods for Seniors are Lacking

Saturday, September 19, 2009 General News J E 4
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WASHINGTON, July 8 A report released Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through the Agency for Health Research and Quality (AHRQ) indicates that vision screenings, using standard methods of assessing visual acuity in older adults, a practice common in the primary care setting, is insufficient for use as a secondary prevention or screening method. The American Optometric Association (AOA) highlights the significance of the report as an important, evidence-based analysis that health care providers and aging Americans should carefully consider.

"The AHRQ findings support the importance of regular comprehensive eye examinations in older adults and highlight the importance of AOA's clinical care guidelines for older adults that stipulate the need for annual eye examinations in all adults age 61 or older," said Michael R. Duenas, O.D., associate director of health sciences and policy at the AOA.

In addition, the AHRQ report found that screening for age-related eye diseases, many of which are asymptomatic in their early treatable stages, requires specialized examinations and equipment available through an optometrist or ophthalmologist.

"With the prevalence of adult vision impairment and age-related eye disease in America expected to double by 2030, the AHRQ findings offer a clear and distinct reason for all older adults to have a comprehensive eye examination on a regular basis," said Randolph E. Brooks, O.D., president of the AOA.

In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that at least half of all blindness can be prevented through timely diagnosis and treatment. Furthermore, the CDC together with Prevent Blindness America (PBA) report that the annual economic cost of adult vision loss currently exceeds $51 billion dollars.

In addition, the CDC reports that the prevalence of blindness and vision impairment increases rapidly with age among all racial and ethnic groups. The agency's own data, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) indicates, however, that the vast majority of adults surveyed (60%) reported that they had "no reason to have an eye exam."

"Although aging is unavoidable, vision loss associated with aging is often preventable or treatable through regular eye examinations," said Dr. Brooks. "The AHRQ findings published Tuesday sound an alarm to physicians and other health providers responsible for the health of seniors, to consider a comprehensive eye examination an essential component to necessary care. These eye examinations provide important information that may help uncover systemic disease, such as diabetes, thereby supporting a team approach to care."

About the American Optometric Association (AOA):

The American Optometric Association represents approximately 36,000 doctors of optometry, optometry students and paraoptometric assistants and technicians. Optometrists serve patients in nearly 6,500 communities across the country, and in 3,500 of those communities are the only eye doctors. Doctors of optometry provide two-thirds of all primary eye care in the United States.

American Optometric Association doctors of optometry are highly qualified, trained doctors on the frontline of eye and vision care who examine, diagnose, treat and manage diseases and disorders of the eye. In addition to providing eye and vision care, optometrists play a major role in a patient's overall health and well-being by detecting systemic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension.

Prior to optometry school, optometrists typically complete four years of undergraduate study, culminating in a bachelor's degree. Required undergraduate coursework for pre-optometry students is extensive and covers a wide variety of advanced health, science and mathematics. Optometry school consists of four years of post-graduate, doctoral study concentrating on both the eye and systemic health. In addition to their formal training, doctors of optometry must undergo annual continuing education to stay current on the latest standards of care. For more information, visit www.aoa.org.

SOURCE American Optometric Association
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