Population-based studies in ophthalmology.
PURPOSE: To review major findings of population-based studies in ophthalmology, to summarize key questions, and to highlight future directions for this study design. DESIGN: Summary and critical analysis of major population-based studies in eye diseases. METHODS: Literature review and interpretation. RESULTS: In the last 30 years, there have been many population-based studies in ophthalmology conducted in the United States and other countries around the world. These studies have provided information on the epidemiology of visual loss and the major eye diseases associated with visual loss; the risk factors; and the socioeconomic burden of eye disease. Population-based studies remain the most valid to determine the prevalence and incidence of a disease, and the population-attributable risk of new risk factors, including the interaction of genetic markers with systemic and environmental factors. Repeated surveys over time may also demonstrate impact of preventive strategies. CONCLUSIONS: Population-based studies have provided substantial data on the frequency and impact of the major eye diseases in the community. This study design will continue to have an important role in addressing key questions of why eye diseases occur, who is at highest risk, and what preventive and therapeutic strategies are necessary to eliminate these diseases.
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