To estimate the cause-specific prevalence and distribution of blindnessand low vision in the United States by age, race/ethnicity, and gender, andto estimate the change in these prevalence figures over the next 20 years.
Summary prevalence estimates of blindness (both according to the USdefinition of ≤6/60 [≤20/200] best-corrected visual acuity in the better-seeingeye and the World Health Organization standard of <6/120 [<20/400])and low vision (<6/12 [<20/40] best-corrected vision in the better-seeingeye) were prepared separately for black, Hispanic, and white persons in 5-yearage intervals starting at 40 years. The estimated prevalences were based onrecent population-based studies in the United States, Australia, and Europe.These estimates were applied to 2000 US Census data, and to projected US populationfigures for 2020, to estimate the number of Americans with visual impairment.Cause-specific prevalences of blindness and low vision were also estimatedfor the different racial/ethnic groups.
Based on demographics from the 2000 US Census, an estimated 937 000(0.78%) Americans older than 40 years were blind (US definition). An additional2.4 million Americans (1.98%) had low vision. The leading cause of blindnessamong white persons was age-related macular degeneration (54.4% of the cases),while among black persons, cataract and glaucoma accounted for more than 60%of blindness. Cataract was the leading cause of low vision, responsible forapproximately 50% of bilateral vision worse than 6/12 (20/40) among white,black, and Hispanic persons. The number of blind persons in the US is projectedto increase by 70% to 1.6 million by 2020, with a similar rise projected forlow vision.
Blindness or low vision affects approximately 1 in 28 Americans olderthan 40 years. The specific causes of visual impairment, and especially blindness,vary greatly by race/ethnicity. The prevalence of visual disabilities willincrease markedly during the next 20 years, owing largely to the aging ofthe US population.