New study says more Americans will have serious vision problems in the next few decades

Published: May. 23, 2016 at 6:39 AM EDT
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The number of Americans who are blind or visually impaired is expected to double in the next 35 years.

That's according to a study from the University of Southern California.

May is Healthy Vision Month.

Dr. Stuart Tims from Vistar Eye Center says some of the reasons for the expected growth in severe vision problems is that macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and cataracts all increase in prevalence with age. Over the next 35 years, millenials will join baby boomers in the age 65 and older demographic. However, the study also found doubling in Americans 40 and older and the most significant increase in the Hispanic population.

Dr. Tims says there are many things you can do to keep your eyes healthy:

1. Get a dilated eye exam.

Children screened at birth, pediatrician visits and school screenings. Type 1 diabetics should get an exam within 5 years of diagnosis. Type 2 diabetics should get an exam at time of diagnosis and yearly thereafter. Adults who don't routinely get vision exams should get a baseline eye exam at age 40. Age 40-54 eye exams every 2-4 years, age 55-64 exams every 1-3 years and 65 and older every 1-2 years.

2. Healthy lifestyle.

Diet rich in fruits and vegetable such as dark leafy greens and omega 3 fatty acids such as tuna and salmon. Being overweight increases risk of diabetes and glaucoma. Smoking significantly increases risk of vision loss especially in patients with macular degeneration or thyroid related eye problems.

3. Know your family history.

Especially when it comes to things like glaucoma and macular degeneration

4. Wear UVA and UVA blocking sunglasses

to protect against things like cataract, macular degeneration, pterygium and periocular skin cancers.

And if you're considering having LASIK surgery, Dr. Tims says it's recommended for patients who wish to have normal eyesight, without having to wear glasses or contacts. One interesting fact: the risk of infection or damage from LASIK surgery is lower than the lifetime risk of losing vision from infection from contact lenses.