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American Foundation for the Blind® | Reader's Digest Partners for Sight

Statistics on Vision Loss and the Military and Policy Implications

  • Traumatic eye injury and other visual disorders from penetrating wounds rank 4th behind Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) at 245,000 (85% from mild concussions), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) at 300,000, and hearing loss in terms of common injuries among active duty personnel and 16% of all evacuated wounded from Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF), Enduring Freedom (OEF) and New Dawn (OND). (VHA Office of Public Health and Environmental Hazards, fourth quarter report, FY 2010)
  • The Department of Defense (DOD) Armed Forces Surveilliance Center MSMR Report indicates that from 2000-2010, there were 186,555 eye injuries worldwide in military medical facilities. (May 2011)
  • Of those veterans identified with eye conditions, including visual problems associated with TBI, up to 75% experience short or long term visual dysfunction such as double vision, light sensitivity, etc. (Ibid)
  • The MSMR report identified 4,154 severe penetrating eye injuries with high risk of blindness, with 7,539 retinal and choroidal injuries, 798 optic nerve injuries, and 4843 with chemical and thermal eye burn injuries between 2003 and 2010. (ibid) These injuries are often for one eye.
  • The total "legally blinded with vision acuity of 20/200 or less or 20 degrees of peripheral fields or less," being treated at VA Blind Centers is 226. However, TBI vision system impairments are growing in number. At least 30,000 have some mild, moderate, or small percentage significant visual system dysfunction requiring low vision technology devices. (Blinded Veterans Association (BVA), 2012)
  • Blast eye injuries number around 4,170. Front line ophthalmology trauma surgeons in field surgery hospitals are now saving some eye globes that in previous wars would have been lost due to severe damage. However BVA is advocating in Congress that more defense vision trauma research must be provided for these surgeons to find better ways to treat these blast injuries. Individuals experiencing these injuries may have gradual loss of vision over a 10-year period. (BVA, 2012)

Note: Readers can help veterans by asking members of Congress to support our troops with increased defense vision trauma research program funding.

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