Editorial: Blindness and visual impairment

04/07/04

CHICAGO In an editorial in the April theme issue of The Archives of Ophthalmology on blindness, editorialists Frederick L. Ferris III, M.D., of the National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md., and James M. Tielsch, Ph.D., of The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, describe the rationale for forming The Eye Diseases Prevalence Research Group, an initiative funded by the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health with additional funding from Prevent Blindness America (Schaumburg, Ill.) that has estimated the current and projected prevalence rates of several major eye diseases in the United States.

They state that prevalence data are the most basic measure of the burden of illness on a population, and that "Such population-based data are critical for program management and for identifying areas where basic and clinical research efforts must be increased in order to avoid a demographically induced tidal wave of chronic ocular disease over the next few decades."

The editorialists note that previous studies to assess prevalence rates for various eye diseases were flawed for reasons including underreporting of illness, especially among people of lower socioeconomic status, study populations that were not fully representative of the U.S. population, and other study biases.

The Eye Diseases Prevalence Research Group has used large, population-based studies, along with population data from the 2000 U.S. Census and projected population data to determine the prevalence of cataract, age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and other eye disorders.

"Although there are shortcomings to any meta-analyses such as these, such estimates are likely to be reliable, or perhaps more reliable, than estimates that could have been obtained from a nationwide prevalence study, and they are available without waiting many years and spending tens of millions of dollars," the editorialists write.

"The voluntary collaboration of the many members of the Eye Diseases Prevalence Group, despite the lack of additional funding, has provided us with a set of important prevalence data that can be used and referenced for years to come," the authors conclude.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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