Worldwide data reveal gaps in elderly eye care

By Sarah Guy, MedWire Reporter

Worldwide eye examination rates among older adults are very low, despite this age group being recommended to have an eye test at least every 1-2 years, say researchers from Canada.

Their study used global data to evaluate the frequency of eye tests in adults aged 60 years and over, as well as factors that were associated with having an eye exam, and found that not even a quarter of respondents had undergone an eye test in the previous year.

"Consequences of vision loss in older adults go beyond the inability to see since vision loss is a determinant of disability and dependency in old age," explain Ellen Freeman (Université de Montréal, Quebec) and colleagues in BMC Ophthalmology.

The researchers studied data on 35,839 respondents from 52 countries who took part in the World Health Survey.

They found that only 18% of the entire cohort reported having had an eye exam in the previous year, and "strikingly," they note that 38% of respondents had never had an eye exam.

Eye examination rates were lowest in respondents from low income countries (10%), with rates of 24%, 22%, and 37% among those from lower middle, upper middle, and high income countries, respectively.

Several factors increased individuals' chances of having had an eye exam in the previous year including their gender and personal wealth.

Indeed, women were 1.17 times more likely to have had a recent exam compared with men, and individuals in the highest tertile for wealth (>$ 9385 [€7567]) were 1.62 times more likely than those in the lowest tertile (<$ 766 [€619]) to have had an exam. Furthermore, those whose overall health status was reported as "bad or very bad" were 1.58 times more likely than those whose health was "very good" to have had an eye exam in the previous year.

This latter finding may indicate that "contact with a healthcare provider may have spurred an eye exam," write the researchers.

"Given that older adults often suffer from age-related but treatable conditions such as cataract, presbyopia, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration, they should be seen on a regular basis," concludes the team.

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