The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers prevalence estimates for the most common eye disorders and eye diseases.(Learn More) The most common eye disorders in the United States are refractive errors. (Learn More)
Glaucoma is a disease that damages the optic nerve and can lead to visual impairment or blindness. (Learn More) Amblyopia and strabismus are disorders that most commonly occur in children. (Learn More)
The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) offer statistics on the prevalence of visual impairment due to eye disorders by ethnicity (Learn More) as well as the breakdown of people who are legally blind due to eye diseases or eye disorders by ethnic group. (Learn More)
The CDC also offers some interesting figures regarding disorders or diseases of the eye.
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Data Provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the most common eye diseases and eye disorders include refractive errors, age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma. The CDC reports the generalized prevalence rates of these disorders.
Refractive errors include eye disorders, such as astigmatism (disordered vision at any distance), hyperopia (farsightedness), and myopia (nearsightedness). Refractive errors also include presbyopia, the inability to focus on things up close, such as reading small print.
Refractive errors of the eye are the most common causes of visual disturbances in the United States. These are estimated prevalence rates for these disorders:
- Astigmatism occurs in about one out of every three people in the United States.
- Farsightedness occurs in about 8.4 percent of the population over the age of 40 (over 14.2 million people).
- Nearsightedness occurs in about 23.9 percent of the population over 40 years old (about 34 million people).
The CDC suggests that corrective lenses can improve vision for people with these disorders in almost every case. In some cases, surgery may be required, but corrective lenses are the standard treatment approach for these disorders.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Macular degeneration or age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a disorder of the eye that is often associated with aging. It leads to impairments in central vision and sharp vision.
AMD affects the central part of the retina, known as the macula, that allows the eye to discriminate fine details in the center of the visual field. AMD is the leading cause of visual impairment and reading problems in people over the age of 60.
There are two different types of AMD.
- Wet AMD is a result of abnormal blood vessels behind the retina leaking blood and other fluid. The scarring of the vessels can lead to damage in the retina. Often, the early symptom of wet AMD is that straight lines or edges appear curved or wavy.
- Dry AMD occurs as a result of the macula deteriorating due to age and blurring central vision. This accounts for 70 to 90 percent of AMD cases. Central vision is generally lost in the affected eye.
The CDC reports that more than 1.8 million Americans over the age of 40 are affected by AMD. Projections are that almost 3 million people will be affected by AMD by 2020.
An additional 7.3 million people are affected by vision problems associated with large drusen deposits — white or yellow deposits that form under the retina. Drusen is made up of fatty proteins called lipids.
Small drusen deposits do not appear to affect vision, but large drusen deposits may be associated with an increased risk for the development of AMD.
Cataracts refer to a clouding of the lens of the eye. Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness across the world. They can occur due to a variety of causes, and they can even be present at birth.
Treatment for cataracts, including surgical removal of cataracts, is readily available in the United States. Barriers, such as a lack of awareness or problems with insurance coverage, may keep people from getting the treatment they need.
The CDC reports that 17.2 percent of Americans over 40 years of age have a cataract in at least one eye (about 20.5 million people). By 2028, it is expected that over 30 million people will have cataracts.
Only about 6.1 million Americans have had their lenses surgically removed and replaced with new lenses to address their cataracts, according to the CDC.
Diabetic retinopathy consists of damage to the blood vessels of the retina, which is caused by diabetes. This damage is progressive and a leading cause of blindness in American adults.
The damage typically progresses through four stages, beginning with mild blockage in the retinal vessels and moving to advanced blockage. Diabetic retinopathy typically affects both eyes in people who have it, so visual loss is bilateral.
The CDC estimates that 4.1 million Americans are affected with diabetic retinopathy, and nearly 900,000 Americans are threatened with vision-damaging retinopathy.
Treatment consists of early diagnosis of the disease and treatment for diabetes. The CDC reports that perhaps 50 percent of patients with diabetes are not getting their eyes examined and are not diagnosed early enough for the treatment to be effective.
Glaucoma is a disease that results in a progressive breakdown of the optic nerve, which can lead to vision loss or blindness. It is a leading cause of blindness in the United States. According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, about 3 million people in United States are estimated to have glaucoma, although many of them may not even know it.
Glaucoma cannot be cured. With medication and surgery, the progression of the disease may be slowed.
Amblyopia and Strabismus
The CDC discusses amblyopia and strabismus, although they do not provide prevalence rates for strabismus.
Amblyopia, often referred to as lazy eye, is the most common cause of visual problems in children. It occurs when the visual acuity of one eye is reduced because the connection between that eye and the brain is not working appropriately. The brain then favors use of the other eye.
The CDC reports a 2 to 3 percent prevalence of amblyopia in children.
Strabismus is an imbalance in the positioning of the two eyes or a refractory problem that is different in both eyes. It can lead to cross-eyed conditions in children.
According to a research study reported in the journal Ophthalmology in 2009, the prevalence of amblyopia was under 2 percent in Caucasian and African American in a sample of over 3,000 children. The prevalence of strabismus was 3.3 percent in Caucasian children and 2.3 percent in African American children.
Breakdown of Eye Disorders and Diseases by Ethnicity
The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) offers a breakdown of the visual impairment associated with common eye disorders by ethnicity.
- Cataracts may be responsible for visual impairment in 42.2 percent of non-Hispanic whites, 41.7 percent of African Americans, and 48 percent of Hispanics who suffer from visual impairment.
- Age-related macular degeneration may be responsible for vision loss in 28.1 percent of non-Hispanic whites, 7.8 percent of African Americans, and 14.5 percent of Hispanics who suffer from visual impairment.
- Diabetic retinopathy may be responsible for visual impairment in 4.7 percent of non-Hispanic whites, 12.2 percent of African Americans, and 50 percent of Hispanics who suffer from visual impairment.
- Glaucoma may be responsible for vision impairment in 2.3 percent of non-Hispanic whites, 11.3 percent of African Americans, and 6.4 percent of Hispanics who suffer from visual impairment.
Visual impairment is described as vision less than or equal to 20/40.
Breakdown of Blindness by Ethnicity
AAO outlines the breakdown of legal blindness associated with eye disorders and diseases according to ethnic group.
- Cataracts cause legal blindness in 10.3 percent of non-Hispanic whites, 25 percent of African Americans, and 7.9 percent of Hispanics who are legally blind.
- Age-related macular degeneration is believed to cause of blindness in 46.6 percent of non-Hispanic whites, 4.2 percent of African Americans, and 23.7 percent of Hispanics who are legally blind.
- Diabetic retinopathy is believed to cause blindness in 6.9 percent of non-Hispanic whites, 8.3 percent of African Americans, and 18.4 percent of Hispanics who are legally blind.
- Glaucoma is believed to cause blindness in 5.2 percent of non-Hispanic whites, 18.8 percent of African Americans, and 10.5 percent of Hispanics who are legally blind.
Legal blindness is defined as best corrected vision that is less than or equal to 20/200.
The following are other relevant figures listed by the CDC and AAO:
- About 1.3 million Americans over the age of 40 are legally blind.
- About 4.2 Americans over the age of 40 are visually impaired.
- More than 150 million Americans use corrective lenses for refractive errors.
- About 37 million Americans use contact lenses.
- It is estimated that about 1 million Americans develop eye infections each year, with the majority of these being related to the use of contact lenses.
Common Eye Disorders. (April 2015). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
What Are Drusen? (May 2019). American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Glaucoma Facts and Stats. (October 2017). Glaucoma Research Foundation.
US Eye Disease Statistics. (2019). American Academy of Ophthalmology.