The number of ophthalmologists in the U.S. has remained virtually unchanged since 1990, according to an August report from the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
While the number of caregivers remains stagnant, the number of patients over 65 seeking ophthalmology care is expected to increase by 42 percent by 2030.
That number will grow to 83 percent by 2050.
Fifty percent of practicing ophthalmologists are currently over 50, meaning that as a wave of ophthalmologists retires, patients seeking care will continue to increase.
Neuro-ophthalmology programs only matched 25 residents out of 45 open spots last year, and about 50 percent of matches were international students planning to practice in their home countries after school, according to the report.
States including South Dakota have no practicing neuro-ophthalmologists, and South Dakota only has one practicing pediatric ophthalmologist in the whole state.
"I believe we need to not only advocate for more funding from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to increase the number of ophthalmology residency spots, but also encourage non-ophthalmology residents into pediatric and neuro-ophthalmology fellowships," Daniel Terveen, MD, a South Dakota ophthalmologist, wrote in the report. "Ophthalmology departments can also help combat this shortage by supporting these specialists and making the positions more desirable to physicians in training to consider. Options might include financial incentives, mixed practice options or physician extenders to help support and triage increased clinical volume or need."