Vision impairment and eye disease are major health problems in the United States. But, unlike cancer or heart disease, everyone will eventually face vision issues and need correction just from the simple act of aging. According to the National Association of Vision Care Plans, visual impairment was estimated to affect 6.4 percent of the U.S. population in 2016, and the total economic burden of impaired vision and eye disorders is estimated at $139 billion — among the costliest health conditions in the United States. Starting at age 40, the risk for serious eye disease increases significantly, and more than 8 out of 10 U.S. adults need vision correction.

All-age issue

Vision problems can be particularly challenging for children. Approximately 80 percent of childhood learning through age 12 is visual. The inability to read or see the blackboard can have a huge impact on a student’s success in school. A number of experts have expressed concerns that the rise in use of digital devices with screens, especially by young people, will result in the need for increased vision correction at even younger ages.

Annual necessity

“… everyone will eventually face vision issues and need correction just from the simple act of aging.”

Fortunately, a regular eye exam by an eye care professional is the best and easiest noninvasive way to make sure your eyes are healthy. Beyond identifying the need for vision correction, eye exams can detect serious eye disease, such as glaucoma and macular degeneration. In addition, eye exams often discover damaging chronic conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, early in the disease progression.

Employer-led solution

U.S. employers are seeing the light. More than 80 percent of companies now offer vision as part of a standard benefit package to employees. In turn, enrollment in employer-sponsored vision benefits has increased by 20 percent in the last five years, and that has translated into much healthier vision behavior. Patients are four times more likely to seek professional eye care services from an eye care professional when offered vision benefits that cover both an eye exam as well glasses and/or contact lenses. And the vast majority will do so in the next 12 months.

Cost is the number one reason Americans cite for avoiding or postponing eye care. But ignoring vision health can be even more costly in the long run.