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The Impact of Vision Loss: Public and Private

About five million people in the United States experience significant vision loss, an intensely personal and transforming event as it redefines tasks, relationships, and encounters. Loss of vision impacts not only those who experience it, but also the people who care about them.

Individual responses to losing one's vision are as varied as the human condition. Some people are resourceful and find ways to carry on with their lives, adapting lighting and work areas, using magnifiers, learning Braille, obtaining canes or guide dogs, etc. For others, this development can be immobilizing, leading to depression or other mental health problems.

Vision loss is a relatively common experience among older people, and it is most common among the oldest age groups. The National Center for Health Statistics indicates that while older Americans make up about 13 percent of the population, they account for 30 percent of all those with a visual-impairment. Nationwide, about 18 percent of those age 70 and older report vision loss, with women and African Americans experiencing the highest rates.

Applying this rate to Wisconsin's 2004 population age 70 and older produces an estimate of 96,000 individuals in this age group experiencing vision loss. Many of the primary causes of vision loss are associated with the aging process. These include cataracts, macular degeneration, diabetes, and stroke.

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Last Revised: July 12, 2010