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Subspecialties Health Economics and Policy, Glaucoma

In This Day and Age

The world has seen dramatic improvements in health and life expectancy over the last century. People are now living healthier and longer lives, particularly in industrialized countries – a result of improvements in environmental and public health, as well as in nutrition and physical safety. However, as life expectancy has increased, so too has the number of people living with age-related degenerative diseases. 

Foremost among these in the news are the projected rise in dementia and the forecasted tsunami of health problems related to higher rates of diabetes. Less prominently in the news, but probably as important in terms of the numbers of people affected, are the degenerative eye diseases of later life comprising cataract, AMD, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy.

In the UK, rates of visual impairment are 20 percent in people age 75 and older, and 50 percent in those aged 90 and over. Two thirds of these are women, and people from black and minority ethnic communities are at significantly greater risk of losing sight. Currently, there are over 2 million people in the UK who have daily problems with their sight. By 2050, projections double this number to over 4 million. 

A report from Deloitte Access Economics estimated that the cost of sight loss in the adult population of the UK totalled £28.1 billion (~$35.14 billion) in 2013. This figure comprises both direct and indirect costs – and the costs associated with reduced health and well-being. The figure has increased dramatically from £22 billion (~$27.5 billion) reported in 2008.

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About the Author

Paul Foster

Professor of Ophthalmic Epidemiology and Glaucoma Studies, UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and Honorary Consultant, Moorfields Eye Hospital.

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