Researchers recently found that the risk of vision loss in America is on the rise, considering more adults were at high risk for vision loss in 2017 than in 2002. They suggest one explanation could be the cost of eyeglasses, as reported by patients in a survey.

The study pulled data from the 2002 and 2017 National Health Interview Surveys of almost 65,000 Americans, excluding respondents who were younger than 18 or blind.

In 2017, the team discovered that more than 93 million adults were at high risk for vision loss compared with just shy of 65 million in 2002. While they noted that use of eye care services improved from 2002 to 2017—5.8% more reported visiting an eye care professional annually, and 7.4% more reported receiving a dilated eye examination)—8.7% said they could not afford eyeglasses. This percentage is up slightly from 8.3% in 2002. In 2017, they added that patients with a lower income were more likely to report eyeglasses as unaffordable compared with higher income survey respondents (13.6% vs. 5.7%).

“Focusing resources on populations at high risk for vision loss (those over 65 or with diabetes or ocular/visual problems), increasing awareness of the importance of eye care and making eyeglasses more affordable could promote eye health, preserve vision and reduce disparities,” the study authors concluded in their paper.

Saydah SH, Gerzoff RB, Saaddine JB, et al. Eye care among US adults at high risk for vision loss in the United States in 2002 and 2017. JAMA Ophthalmol. March 12, 2020. [Epub ahead of print].