There are about 14 million people in the United States who are suffering from some form of visual impairment, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association. But most of them don’t need to view life through hazy, imperfect eyes — most of them could see quite clearly with a little help.
Researchers believe that more than 11 million people with eye concerns could improve their sight with corrective lenses. In other words, the vast majority of people don’t suffer from actual eye illnesses; instead, they are simply nearsighted or farsighted.
“Impairment” means having vision that is 20/50 or worse in your strongest eye (20/20 being, of course, ideal). These numbers are known as “visual acuity” and represent how sharp you can see objects that are 20 feet away. For instance, if you have 20/65 vision, you can see something clearly at 20 feet that others with normal vision can see clearly at 65 feet. Glasses, contacts, or corrective surgery can improve a person’s vision — researchers based improved vision on whether or not they could boost the acuity to 20/40 or better.
The study, courtesy of the National Eye Institute, tracked more than 13,000 people from 1999 through to 2002. They were looking for distance-related impairments; that is, nearsightedness. They found that 1,200 people were visually impaired — but 83% of them could achieve good vision with some correction.
When these figures were applied to the U.S. population at large, they reached the 11-million mark. The study illustrates that many people suffer needlessly — their poor distance vision could be improved either easily (getting glasses) or with a safe surgical procedure.
The researchers believe that they may have underestimated to number of people who could benefit from some eye intervention. The prevalence of impairment may be much higher. Since we have the technology to make our lives better, there is no real reason as to why anyone would live with less-than-great vision.
There is life beyond squinting. See an ophthalmologist: a checkup runs around $50, but that gets you a precise prescription, which you can then give to an eyeglass maker or a contact lens maker.