Eye Care Trends in California: A Glimpse into the Golden State’s Vision

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Eye diseases are often influenced by various factors including genetics, environmental conditions, lifestyle, and access to healthcare. Certain diseases can also vary within different populations and communities, and their prevalences can change over time. As a result, it’s important to stay informed on the eye diseases, legal regulations, and eye care trends that impact the people in your state. This article delves into the unique challenges and opportunities shaping California’s vision for the future.

Prevalent Eye Diseases in California

While no specific eye disease is exclusively prevalent in California, certain demographics, environmental factors, and lifestyle choices may contribute to the occurrence of certain eye conditions in this state. Here are a few common eye diseases you can expect to impact California residents.

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

With a population of nearly 39 million people, California has a large and aging population. In 2023, people aged 65 and older made up 15.8% of the state’s population, and this number is projected to balloon to about one in five by the year 2030.

Being above the age of 55 is a primary risk factor for age-related macular degeneration, and California's aging population could contribute to a higher prevalence of AMD compared to states with younger populations.


A large population of California residents are at risk of developing glaucoma at some point in their lives. Some of the primary risk factors for developing glaucoma are related to ethnicity, sex, and age.

  • Ethnicity: California has one of the most diverse populations in America. In 2023, the U.S. Census Bureau found that 40.3% of Californians are Latino, 34.7% are Caucasian, 16.8% are Asian American or Pacific Islander, 6.5% are African American, and 1.7% are Native American or Alaska Natives.
  • As reported by the American Academy of Ophthalmology and other publications, certain ethnicities, such as Latinos, Asian Americans, and African Americans, have a much higher risk of developing glaucoma. With these ethnicities making up nearly two-thirds of the California population, the risk for glaucoma in California is vast.
  • Sex: Females are also at a higher risk of developing glaucoma over time. California has more than 19 million female residents, increasing the potential prevalence of glaucoma in this state.
  • Age: Similar to AMD, glaucoma is more common in older adults. California's aging population again puts it at potential risk for higher glaucoma rates.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about three million Americans have glaucoma, and a large portion of that population comes from California, as it is the nation’s most populous state.

Diabetic Retinopathy

According to the CDC, roughly three million people in California have diabetes—that's nearly 8% of its total population. Another 14.8% have been notified of prediabetes. California’s high prevalence of diabetes is a significant risk factor for diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy is another leading cause of blindness in adults, but it can be prevented or slowed down with good diabetes control and regular eye exams.


Another condition to look out for is cataracts. Cataracts, a clouding of the eye's lens, are more common in older adults but can also affect younger people due to injuries or certain medical conditions. California has a sunny climate, and prolonged exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun can also increase the risk of conditions such as cataracts.

Dry Eye

Dry eye is a condition that occurs when the eyes don't produce enough tears to keep them lubricated. It can be caused by various factors, including age, medications, and environmental conditions. Cities like Los Angeles and the Bay Area are often plagued with air pollution, increasing the potential risk of dry eye.

Early detection and treatment of eye conditions and diseases can help prevent vision loss. Enhanced patient education is the key to catching these conditions and diseases in time.

California's Regulatory Landscape for Eye Care

California's regulatory landscape for eye care can be as complex as a multifocal lens. Understanding state guidelines for optometrists, ophthalmologists, and emerging eye care technologies like telemedicine and AI-powered diagnostics is crucial for staying ahead of the curve.

For example, augmented reality (AR) headsets are being explored for remote eye examinations, and virtual reality (VR) programs are available for visual rehabilitation and therapy for conditions like amblyopia and age-related macular degeneration. The Telehealth Eye Care Act paves the way for these technologies; however, reimbursement regulations for telehealth services are still evolving, requiring providers to stay informed and navigate insurance complexities.

AI algorithms are being trained to analyze retinal scans and detect eye diseases like glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and AMD, with the potential for earlier and more accurate diagnoses. Regulations haven't caught up yet, so questions remain about the validation, bias, and data privacy implications of these algorithms. Both the FDA and California regulatory bodies are actively working on guidelines for AI-powered medical devices, including those specific to eye care.

Staying informed about ongoing developments and regulatory changes is crucial for navigating the California eye care landscape effectively.

California is Innovating the Eye Care Landscape 

California is a hotbed for medical technology, and eye care is no exception. There have been many incredible advancements in optometry and ophthalmology. AI-powered diagnostics are streamlining early disease detection, while personalized vision correction solutions like corneal reshaping offer patients freedom from glasses and contacts.

Augmented reality is finding its way into eye care, revolutionizing surgical training and patient education. And groundbreaking research at California universities and institutes is pushing the boundaries of treatment for conditions like macular degeneration and glaucoma. These advancements position California as a leader in shaping the future of eye care.

Addressing Challenges and Emerging Opportunities 

A recent study was conducted by Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science (IOVS) to examine the association between Service Planning Areas (SPAs) and the prevalence of chronic eye disease in Los Angeles (LA) County. Among more than 800,000 California Medicare beneficiaries in LA County, 114,234 (14.11%) had an eye disease (i.e., glaucoma, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, cataracts).

After compiling the data, the study’s conclusion stated: “In 2019 California Medicare beneficiaries in LA county, there were statistically significant differences in the prevalence of chronic eye disease by SPAs, indicating a possible relationship between residential location, healthcare access, and ocular health outcomes.”

So despite the sunshine, California's eye care landscape faces challenges. Accessibility remains an issue, with rural areas often underserved. Rising healthcare costs can create barriers for patients, and the digital divide can exclude some from the benefits of telehealth.

To address these challenges, collaboration is key. Community outreach programs, targeted financial assistance initiatives, and continued development of user-friendly telehealth platforms can bridge the gap for underserved populations.

By embracing innovation, focusing on patient experience, advocating for equitable access, and fostering collaboration, California's eye care professionals can ensure a brighter future for vision health in the Golden State and beyond.

About Virtual Field

Virtual Field delivers an exceptional eye exam experience. Eye care professionals including ophthalmologists and optometrists examine patients faster, more efficiently, and more comfortably than ever before. Exams include Visual Field, 24-2, Kinetic Visual Field (Goldmann Perimetry), Ptosis, Esterman, Color Vision, Pupillometry, and more.

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