One consequence of today’s battlefield conditions is that 14.9 percent of those who are evacuated due to wounds resulting from Improvised Explosive Device (IED) blast forces have penetrating eye injuries and TBI-related visual system dysfunction. Upwards of 75 percent of all TBI patients experience short- or long-term visual disorders (double vision, light sensitivity, inability to read print, and other cognitive impairments). With the continued presence of the U.S. in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, coupled with other global threats, such eye injuries will continue to be a challenge. The VHA Office of Public Health has reported that for the period October 2001 through June 30, 2015, the total number of OEF/OIF/OND veterans enrolled in VA with visual conditions was 211,350, including 21,513 retinal and choroid hemorrhage injuries, 5,293 optic nerve pathway disorders, 12,717 corneal conditions, and 27,880 with traumatic cataracts. The VA continues to see an increased enrollment of this generation with various eye and vision disorders resulting from complications from frequent blast-related injuries.
VHA data also reveals rising numbers of the total Post 9/11 veterans with TBI visually impaired ICD-10 Codes enrolled in VHA for vision care in FY 2013 was 39,908, for FY 2015 total 66,968 with symptoms of visual disturbance. Based on recent estimates from reported TBI Defense Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC) data, the incidence of TBI without eye injury with clinical visual impairment from 2000-2017 is 76.900.
VHA Blind Rehabilitation Services (BRS) provided data as of August 6, 2018, indicating that 3,439 unique OEF/OIF/OND patients have been seen by Vision Impairment Services Outpatient Rehabilitation (VISOR) programs, and 229 attended Blind Inpatient Rehab Centers.
Research to effectively treat vision trauma and TBI-related visual disorders can have long-term implications for an individual’s vision health, productivity, and quality of life for the remainder of military service and into civilian life. John Hopkins Public Health study Oct 2001 to 2nd Q 2017 study using published data estimated that deployment-related eye injuries and blindness have cost the U.S. $45.5 billion, with $44.4 billion of that cost reflecting the present value of a lifetime of long-term benefits, lost wages, and family care.
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