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New Jersey clinic screens for vision loss, impairments

The Visiting Homemakers Service of Hudson County, in Jersey City, is offering free monthly eye screenings for seniors, by appointment. The screening includes glaucoma testing, as well as dilation for diabetic patients. Priority is given to older, low-income, and uninsured New Jersey residents.

However, a new study suggests that all workers in New Jersey might benefit from including eye screenings in their annual physical exams, due to increased cases of nonrefractive visual impairment among Americans 20 years of age and older. Specifically, researchers analyzing data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in 1999-2002 and 2005- 2008 found that the rate of nonrefractive visual impairment among adults in the country jumped 21 percent in 2005-2008, compared to 1999-2002.

Nonrefractive vision problems, which affect about 2.15 million Americans, are not correctable by glasses. Rather, this type of vision loss is commonly caused by retinal disorders, age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, or glaucoma. Treatment usually requires surgery or lasers to repair. If not diagnosed in time, the impairment can lead to permanent vision loss which impacts the eyes.

The type of vision loss measured in the study involved those seeing worse than 20/40 in both eyes. Although that level of visual impairment is not blindness, it can create significant problems for adults trying to perform work duties, such as using a computer, obtaining an unrestricted driver's license, commuting to work, or performing a host of other daily tasks of independent living.

The study's researchers noted that blindness and visual impairment are associated with increased medical care expenditure, decreased work productivity and decreased quality-adjusted life years. If the diagnosis rate for nonrefractive visual problems continues to increase, however, it might result in increasing rates of disability.

For New Jersey workers living with a nonrefractive visual impairment, Social Security and other federal sources of disability benefits may provide assistance until such time as they are able to work again. Although children with this type of visual disability lack the qualifying work history required for SSDI benefits, they may nonetheless be able to receive Supplemental Security Income benefits. An attorney specializing in Social Security law will be well versed in the application procedures.

Source: nj.com, "Free Eye Exams for Seniors," Nov. 20, 2012

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