How Much Is Your Eyesight Worth? - OZY | A Modern Media Company

How Much Is Your Eyesight Worth?

How Much Is Your Eyesight Worth?

By Meghan Walsh

SourceRichard Clark/Getty


Because it’s time to think about how much your eyesight is worth.

By Meghan Walsh

I once was blind, but now I see. And it cost only …

$66.8 billion

Amount the United States spent treating eye disorders in 2014

This figure confirms eye disorders as some of the most expensive chronic health conditions around, based on a report published by the organization Prevent Blindness America. Add in the indirect expenses that come from lost productivity and nursing care, and the price tag inflates to $139 billion. Still, that’s nothing compared to the $373 billion we’ll be spending by 2050 … barring some medical or divine intervention. Obamacare won’t be that savior, either. While standard plans cover cataract surgery, they don’t include routine eye exams, and subsidies aren’t offered for vision insurance. Kathy Tran, chief of the University of California at Berkeley Refractive Surgery Center, warns that people need to start making eye care a priority, ASAP

By the age of 80, more than half of all Americans develop cataracts; and, since our lifespans keep upping, the number of people with bad eyesight will likely more than double over the next three decades. Not to mention those aging baby boomers who’ll have a “huge impact,” says John Wittenborn, an economist at the University of Chicago research organization NORC, which did the economic report. Cataracts are the most expensive of all the vision conditions, costing the country about $26 billion last year.

On average, cataract surgery is listed at about $3,000 per eye, according to the consumer site That’s only about $1,000 more than standard corrective laser procedures. (Though prices for both vary, depending on the particular surgical method and where you are in the country. Some pay as little as $500 an eye for refractive surgery.)

At the same time, it’s more expensive to have a population that can’t see well; the economy loses a net of about $72 billion a year because of diminished vision.  

As for corrective surgery? It’s relatively cheap and commonplace these days, but Tran warns that it’s not a cure-all, which is why she advises that people make eye health a priority.

How to Protect Your Eyes

A carrot a day keeps the eye doctor away, and other advice for protecting your vision — and pocketbook:

  • Make sure to go in for a comprehensive exam — that’s the one where they dilate your eyes — every few years.
  • As with all things health-related, diet is essential. Make sure to eats lots of fruits and vegetables, particularly leafy greens and carrots.
  • Kick the smoking habit. It’s linked to increased risks of macular degeneration and cataracts.
  • Follow the 20-20-20 rule: For every 20 minutes you’re focused on the computer screen, look away about 20 feet in front of you for 20 seconds.
  • Don’t forget to wear shades, and be sure they block out 99–100 percent of both UVA and UVB rays.

Based on recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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