Economic Cost of the Failure to Prevent Blindness from Amblyopia
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Blindness in children takes tolls that are large and small, loud and quiet but always regrettable. But much can be done to prevent childhood blindness from amblyopia. What is more, we are all better off for preventing it. Quantifiably.
Amblyopia is a failure of visual developmental the level of the visual brain consequent from a number of causes, including misaligned eyes, refractive errors and other developmental abnormalities of the eye. It is generally unilateral. It is best treated when identified early. When identified too late, treatment is not effective.
Put simply, vision loss from amblyopia is treatable and consequent blindness is preventable.
Amblyopia has roughly the same infliction rates in children as diabetes has in the population as a whole…somewhere in the three to five percent range. And like diabetes, amblyopia is well worth treating early and widely in order to prevent mounting ongoing costs of living with the disease.
Screening, Treating and Costs
Screening for amblyopia in children is wise because it is treatable if detected early. Screening techniques are straightforward and have been employed for many years. When used, they have cut the disease’s toll in half. The cost of screening and treating those children diagnosed have been estimated to be $1.24 billion annually nationwide. This total is based on screening 4.14 million children annually and treating the expected three percent, or 124,000, who are diagnosed.
The cost of not treating amblyopia is the cost of dealing with the resulting vision impairment in an afflicted group of children and aging impaired persons. There are two general types of costs for dealing with the impacts of afflictions.
The first cost is the out-of-pocket cost of dealing with the medical and custodial needs of children who have impaired or failed vision. Examples of these are higher medical care and surgical costs, costs of building facilities to the needs of the visually impaired, costs of caregivers to assist in coping, etc. These costs are borne both by the individual and family and by society as a whole. These costs are very difficult to quantify but very real.