Objective: To assess 10-year trends in reported visual impairment. Methods: The National Health Interview Survey is a continuous multistage area probability survey of the US civilian noninstitutionalized population living at addressed dwellings. Adults within randomly selected households were administered a chronic conditions list that included questions about visual impairment. Proxy information on these conditions was obtained when household members were unavailable for interview. Complete data were available on 132 860 adults 18 years or older in survey years 1986 to 1995. Prevalence rates were adjusted for age and sample survey design. Results: Annual age-adjusted rates of some visual impairment ranged from 3.6% to 4.6%. Rates of severe bilateral visual impairment ranged from 0.2% to 0.4%. There was some evidence for increasing rates of visual impairment among younger adults 18 to 39 years of age (annual increase, 0.03%; P=.03). However, there were no significant changes in reported visual impairment rates in older adults stratified into 10-year age groups. Conclusions: Data from the National Health Interview Survey provide no evidence that reported visual impairment rates are declining in the US noninstitutionalized population from 1986 to 1995. Additional treatment advances, greater use of existing treatments, including correcting refractive errors, and further reductions in risk factors for disabling eye diseases may be necessary before population-level reductions in visual impairment rates can be achieved.
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