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Ohio Department of Aging Press Release

April 1, 2010

Governor Strickland Proclaims April as Ohio Aging Eyes Month

Early Detection and Prevention are Keys to Preserving Sight

COLUMBUS - Governor Ted Strickland has joined with the Ohio Department of Aging and Ohio's Aging Eye Public Private Partnership to proclaim April as Ohio Aging Eyes Month to promote awareness of age-related eye diseases that affect more than one million Ohioans.

"Blindness and vision impairment represent a significant burden not only to aging Ohioans, but also to their family and communities," said Governor Strickland. "Working together, the members of Ohio's Aging Eye Public Private Partnership are helping the state prepare for the early detection, treatment and rehabilitation services that will be needed as the baby boom generation ages and greatly increases the number of Ohioans at risk."

"The leading causes of vision impairment and blindness are primarily age-related eye diseases, which leads many to mistakenly believe that decreased eye sight is a necessary part of growing older," added Barbara E. Riley, director of the department. "In reality, half of all blindness can be prevented, but the key is to know the facts and have regular eye exams."

"Many seniors are not aware that most geriatric eye diseases slowly steal vision, without any noticeable early symptoms," added Dr. Robert Newcomb, co-chair of Ohio's Aging Eye Public Private Partnership and professor of clinical optometry at The Ohio State University College of Optometry. "Regular eye exams with pupil dilation give your vision professional a greater chance of detecting any problems in the early stages, which can lead to more successful treatment."

Age-related eye disease includes age-related macular degeneration, cataract, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma. Approximately 1.25 million Ohioans are affected, and that number is expected to nearly double to 2.5 million by 2030. Most of these conditions do not exhibit any initial symptoms before vision loss occurs. In most cases, vision lost cannot be recovered.

Ohio's Aging Eye Public Private Partnership, supported by the Ohio Department of Aging, is a collaboration of state agencies and boards, legislators, industry associations and health and vision experts, that strives to shape the state's vision care public policy, increase access to vision care services and promote education and research.

Visit www.preventblindness.org/Ohio/Agingeye/ for more information about the Aging Eye Public Private Partnership, eye diseases, Medicare benefits, the prevalence of vision problems in Ohio and a directory of Ohio vision resources.

Facts about age-related eye disease in Ohio:

  • "Blindness" does not necessarily mean the complete loss of vision with no remaining perception of light. In fact, this ultimate form of complete blindness is rare.
  • Vision impairment is defined as having 20/40 or worse vision in the better eye even with eyeglasses.
  • "Legal blindness," used to determine eligibility for certain disability benefits from the federal government, is typically defined as visual acuity worse than or equal to 20/200 or a visual field extent of less than 20 degrees in diameter.
  • More than 1.3 million Ohioans over age 40 have myopia, or nearsightedness, which causes them to see near objects clearly, while distant ones are blurred.
  • More than 92,000 Ohioans over age 50 suffer from age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, which creates a loss of sharp, central vision and currently has no treatment.
  • Approximately 950,000 Ohioans over age 40 have cataracts, which involve a clouding of the eye's naturally clear lens.
  • More than 93,000 Ohioans over age 40 have glaucoma, which causes the loss of peripheral or side vision.
  • More than 216,000 Ohioans over age 18 have diabetic retinopathy, which involves abnormal growth of blood vessels in the back of the eye that can leak.
  • An eye exam with pupil dilation is the best defense against undetected eye disease.

About Ohio's Aging Eye Public Private Partnership

Ohio's Aging Eye Public Private Partnership (AEPPP) is a statewide collaboration formed to respond to the growth of aging eye challenges in Ohio. The mission of the AEPPP, an initiative supported by the Ohio Department of Aging, is to develop a strategic plan of action to address issues relating to vision care public policy, vision care services, vision education and vision research that impact the quality of life for Ohio's seniors now and in the future. The partnership and its on-going work are supported by a resolution from Governor Ted Strickland. Visit www.preventblindness.org/Ohio/Agingeye/.

About ODA

The Ohio Department of Aging provides leadership for the delivery of services and supports that improve and promote quality of life and personal choice for older Ohioans, adults with disabilities, their families and their caregivers. Working with 12 area agencies on aging and other community partners, the department offers home- and community-based Medicaid waiver programs such as PASSPORT, the long-term care ombudsman program, the Golden Buckeye Card and more. Visit www.aging.ohio.gov.