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Refractive Error Most Expensive; Embezzler Sentenced to 41 Months; Eyeball Licking and more.



Refractive Error Most Expensive, Reveals PBA Report

At $16.1 billion per year, refractive error is the most expensive vision or eye condition in the United States, reveals Prevent Blindness America’s report: Cost of Vision Problems: The Economic Burden of Vision Loss and Eye Disorders in the United States.

“… Assessing refractive error is now a task that laypersons can easily perform with handheld ‘auto-refractors.’ [But] there is often no infrastructure to generate the eyeglasses prescriptions once refractive error has been assessed,” explains Randall Thomas, O.D., M.P.H., a key opinion leader in the profession. “So, getting properly equipped persons to interface with these undeserved people groups, and then physically getting the prescriptions converted into eyeglasses are the two critical challenges.”

Cataracts come in second at $10.7 billion, followed by vision problems at $10.4 billion (undiagnosed low vision [$3 billion], diagnosed blindness or low vision [$3.8 billion] and visual disturbances, including ailments, such as amblyopia [$3.6 billion]). Physical disorders comprise $8.9 billion (conjunctivitis and eyelid and lacrimal system abnormalities [$4.6 billion], globe disorders [$2.4 billion], burns to the eye and injuries [$1.3 billion] and strabismus [$0.6 billion]). Retinal disorders cost $8.7 billion. With regard to retinal disorders, as a result of limitations in diagnostic codes, Medical Expenditure Panel Survey data, one of the report’s data sources, is unable to tell the difference between major retinal disorders, such as AMD and diabetic retinopathy. The report does, however, approximate the costs of these ailments by separately estimating the costs of all retinal disorders among persons who do and don’t have diabetes. This shows that the cost of retinal conditions among those who don’t have diabetes is $4.6 billion, and the cost of retinal conditions for those who have diabetes is almost $4.1 billion.


Numbers are in billions.

Finally, glaucoma costs $5.8 billion and other disorders total $4.5 billion.

The Cost of Vision Problems: The Economic Burden of Vision Loss and Eye Disorders in the United States report also includes cost data on individual age groups, indirect and direct costs, individual, government and private insurance costs and additional data. You can download the full report at

Kansas O.D. Sentenced for Embezzlement

A Kansas optometrist recently pleaded guilty to a scheme to collect more than $500,000 for eye exams he never performed. The O.D., Wade D. Abbey, 47, Derby, Kan., was sentenced to 41 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $583,060 in restitution for five counts of wire fraud. An indictment alleges that Abbey and his wife, Mindy, committed the crimes when they worked as optometrists for Visions Doctors of Optometry in Derby. Both were paid a wage plus additional fees for each full eye exam they conducted. Wade Abbey inflated the number of eye exams they performed and provided false information to an accountant who paid them based on the false information. Additional information can be found at


Presbyopes Lack Awareness of Multifocal Contact Lenses

■ To foster awareness among eye doctors that presbyopia is increasing in prevalence, that few who have the condition think or know to discuss it with their eye doctor and don’t realize that multifocal contact lenses (CLs) are a vision-correcting option, Alcon, makers of Air Optix Aqua multifocal CLs, has issued a press release containing statistics on these topics.

To start, in the United States, the presbyopic population is expected to increase from 111 million to 123 million by 2020 — an increase of more than 36% of the population within the next seven years, Alcon says.

Regardless of this increase in prevalence, however, 10% in the United States think, or know to communicate with their eye doctor presbyopic vision changes. And, 18% of U.S. presbyopes are aware that multifocal CLs are an option for them, Alcon says.

When asked what methods she uses in her practice to make patients aware of presbyopia and the availability of multifocal contact lenses, Victoria Dzurinko, O.D., F.A.A.O., of Downingtown, Pa., says her patient registration form includes extensive questions about computer use, blurred vision at distance, intermediate and near, as well as symptoms of glare, tired eyes, burning eyes and headaches.

“We also have multimedia educational videos running in our office all day to educate our patients on common eye conditions, including presbyopia, as well as the corrective options available,” she adds.

Also, she says her staff is educated on the latest technologies available for patients in regards to CLs and presbyopia, and that she uses exam time to explain presbyopic vision and the vision-correction options available.

“When the patient’s prescription is appropriate, we recommend multifocal contact lenses as his/her first and best option to correct their vision and allow him/her to remain glasses free 80% or more of the time,” Dr. Dzurinko explains.


Teachers Seek to “Lick” Trend

■ When several middle school students in Japan began coming to school wearing eye patches, their teachers initially wrote it off as the latest fashion trend — that is, until one of those teachers uncovered the true reason behind the patches: eyeball-licking-caused eye infections, such as conjunctivitis.

Subsequently, a school assembly revealed 1/3 of middle schoolers either gave or received an eyeball lick.

A post on, a site for Shanghai news, food, arts & events, postulates a music video from the Japanese hard-rock band BORN may have started the trend. (See, 3:31.)

“Just [telling teen patients] ‘things in your mouth don’t belong in your eyes and vice versa’ may be sufficient [in preventing this trend] from spreading to the United States,” says Glenda B. Secor, American Academy of Optometry Communications chair.


PECAA Holds Annual Meeting


PECAA Director of Membership, Doug Martin, asking PECAA regional leaders how many of them offer retinal screening to their patients, during the organization’s Annual Meeting, held May 17 to May 19 at Skamania Lodge in Stevenson, Wash.