Public Health Degrees shared that more than 93 million American adults are at high risk for vision loss, according to a JAMA Ophthalmology study on eye care in 2017. Of these individuals, only 40% actually received an eye exam in the previous year.
Chronic conditions such as diabetes can make vision problems worse—but many chronic disease prevention and management programs fail to address vision care, according to the CDC’s fact page on eye and vision health.
For these reasons, vision care is as essential as a yearly physical, especially for those living in communities that lack the built environs to fully support individuals with blindness, low vision, and other eye conditions.
Having regular eye exams and care is especially pertinent for women, who are more likely than men to develop “sight-threatening conditions,” according to an article on women’s eye health by the American Academy of Ophthalmology. These include cataracts, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration, which the National Eye Institute noted is more common in women over 80 than men. Furthermore, the National Federation of the Blind reported that more than 3.9 million women in the United States reported a visual disability compared to over 3.2 million men in 2016.
What Are the Barriers to Accessing Eye Health Services?
Public health professionals and vision providers should note that, even when individuals understand the importance of eye care, they may still experience barriers to adequate access. These factors include:
- Insurance – Without adequate coverage, women may struggle to afford regular eye exams and appropriate care.
- Transportation – Full eye exams cannot be conducted virtually, which means transportation options are still critical for accessing eye health services.
- Childcare – Parents may be unable to pay for the childcare that would allow time for an eye appointment.
- Flexible Work – While some communities have vision providers who offer appointments outside working hours, others do not, making accessing care difficult for working women.
What Is an Eye Health Screening?
Ophthalmologists perform eye exams to check for early signs of eye disease and changes in vision. An eye exam is more extensive and thorough than a lens prescription updated and differs from the vision screenings that children receive at pediatric checkups or at school.