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Eye Disorders Cost U.S. Economy $35.4 Billion a Year

Well-designed public health programs needed to reduce burden

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Millions of Americans have major visual disorders that impede their economic productivity and create billions of dollars of direct medical costs, researchers report in the December issue of the Archives of Ophthalmology.

David B. Rein, Ph.D., of RTI International in Research Triangle Park, N.C., and colleagues analyzed three components of economic burden: direct medical costs, using Medicare claims data; other direct costs calculated from epidemiologic evidence from a range of sources; and lost productivity estimated from the Survey of Income and Program Participation data.

The estimated total economic burden of adult visual disorders is $35.4 billion, of which direct medical costs, other direct costs and productivity losses account for $16.2 billion, $11.1 billion and $8 billion, respectively. The resulting annual government budgetary impact is $13.7 billion.

Cataracts accounted for approximately $6.8 billion of direct costs, while $5.5 billion was attributable to refractive error, $2.9 billion to glaucoma, $575 million for age-related macular degeneration and $493 million for diabetic retinopathy. Outpatient services and medications accounted for the majority of direct medical costs.

"Public health efforts to screen for and treat currently undiagnosed disease may be likely to increase direct medical care costs, but if effective, they will also improve visual outcomes, and potentially reduce productivity losses and nursing home placements associated with visual impairment and blindness," the authors conclude.

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