Vision Impairment Declining For Older Americans

Vision impairment -- one of the more common complaints associated with aging eyes -- has seen a steep drop in older Americans, according to a new study in the journal Ophthamology.

The study -- conducted by Northwestern Medical -- found that 23 percent of people over the age of 65 had "activity-limiting visual impairment" problems (for example, they weren't able to read the paper). But by 2010, this type of impairment saw an age-adjusted 58 percent drop, with only 9.7 percent of 65+ year olds saying poor vision getting in the way of an active lifestyle, Northwestern University reported.

While the study didn't discuss the cause for such a drop, Dr. Angelo P. Tanna, one of the study's first authors, had a few thoughts on the matter. Tanna told Northwestern:

“The findings are exciting, because they suggest that currently used diagnostic and screening tools and therapeutic interventions for various ophthalmic diseases are helping to prolong the vision of elderly Americans."

Tanna went on to list three specific reasons for the marked decrease:

1. "Improved techniques and outcomes for cataract surgery": A new form of cataract surgery highlighted in the November 2010 issue of Science took cataract surgery to a new level. Now doctors can use lasers to make incisions and imaging to make sure those incisions are made in the right place, instead of the old school method of "freehand pulling and tearing of the capsular tissue."

2. "Less smoking, resulting in a drop in the prevalence of macular degeneration": As if you needed another reason to stop smoking, lighting up can make you four times more likely to experience retinal deterioration, according to the Macular Degeneration Association.

3. "Treatments for diabetic eye diseases are more readily available and improved": Even though Tanna acknowledge instances of the disease are up, the eye problems related to the diabetes -- such as cataracts and glaucoma -- are much more easier to treat these days.

Take a look at the Ocular Nutrition Society's survey findings on eye health and older Americans in the slideshow below.

Ocular Nutrition Society's Survey Findings

(Hat tip: Science Daily)