Those who are the most at risk of losing their vision do not get an annual eye exam

New York, October 19, 2010 – According to a new Harris Interactive Survey, 82 percent of Americans fear losing their vision, the highest proportion among the five traditional senses. In addition, 86 percent of those who have, or are at risk for, an eye disease fear losing their vision and do not get an annual eye exam. These results were revealed through a new Harris Interactive Survey on health and other key national issues. The survey was conducted by telephone in September 2010 for Lighthouse International, a leading non-profit organization fighting vision loss.

The survey is believed to be the first national survey to examine the risk factors, barriers and motivation behind vision loss.

“This is a disturbing finding, since a comprehensive, annual eye exam is the most important step to preserving vision,” said Mark G. Ackermann, President and CEO of Lighthouse International, a 105-year-old non-profit organization dedicated to fighting vision loss through prevention, treatment and empowerment. “Due to an increase in the number of aging baby boomers and the growing prevalence of such diseases as diabetes and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), some 61 million Americans are at high risk of serious vision loss.”

Fear of Vision Loss

When asked, “What sense do you fear losing the most?” the responses were:

  • 82% vision
  • 8% hearing
  • 3% smell
  • 2% touch
  • 2% taste

“Fear can be paralyzing, but action can be liberating,” said Mark Ackermann. “Based on our experience, we know that a range of proven clinical, social and technological services enables people to live productive, fulfilling lives at school, work and home.”

The survey also found large majorities of people with other major risk factors for vision loss who are not getting annual exams.

Those Most At-Risk Are Not Acting

Of those who fear losing their vision:

  • 86% say they (or a family member) have an eye disease and do not get an annual eye exam
  • 86% say they (or a family member) have high blood pressure and do not get an annual eye exam
  • 85% say they (or a family member) have high cholesterol and do not get an annual eye exam
  • 86% say they (or a family member) have diabetes and do not get an annual eye exam.

“Twenty-four million Americans have diabetes, which can lead to vision loss and blindness,” said Dr. Bruce Rosenthal, Chief of Low Vision Services at Lighthouse International. “In addition, people who have high cholesterol or high blood pressure are at much greater risk of adversely affecting and compromising the blood vessels in their eyes, which can lead to serious vision loss.”

Motivation

When asked, “What would motivate you to take better care of your eyesight?” the responses were:

  • 62% a problem or change in my vision
  • 58% having health insurance that covered eye exams
  • 56% knowing that an annual exam could help detect or prevent vision loss
  • 53% knowing that an eye exam could detect other health problems

“Many people are misinformed about eye diseases,” said Dr. Rosenthal. “Some eye diseases, such as glaucoma, have few symptoms, so you should get an annual exam even if you do not perceive any vision problems or changes, especially if you have a family history. Eighty percent of vision loss is preventable.”

Barriers

When asked, “Why have you not had your eyes examined in the past year?” the top responses were:

  • 31% I do not have trouble with my vision
  • 18% I don’t have insurance
  • 17% I think it is too costly
  • 13% I don’t have time

Behaviors

The Harris Interactive Survey also analyzed the key behaviors that contribute to vision loss, such as smoking or lack of exercise. Of those who smoke, 77 percent fear losing their vision, yet only 51 percent of them say they get an annual eye exam. “In addition to other health problems, smoking more than doubles the risk of AMD, which is the leading cause of vision loss in Americans over 60,” said Dr. Rosenthal.

This data reflects only those who selected a response and does not include those who selected “don’t know” or refused to answer that particular question.

Full Methodology

This survey was conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Lighthouse International. All data collection was done by telephone within the United States from September 8-12, 2010, among 1,004 adults ages 18 and older. Results were weighted for age, sex, geographic region, and race, where necessary, to align them with their actual proportions in the population.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error, which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words “margin of error” as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, random samples with 100 percent response rates. These are only theoretical, because no published polls come close to this ideal.

About Lighthouse International

Founded in 1905, Lighthouse International is a leading non-profit organization dedicated to fighting vision loss through prevention, treatment and empowerment. It achieves this through clinical and rehabilitation services, education, research and advocacy. For more information about vision loss and its causes, contact Lighthouse International at 1-800-829-0500 or visit www.lighthouse.org.

Contact Information:
Leslie Gottlieb
212-821-9760
lgottlieb@lighthouse.org

 

 

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