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The State of the World’s Eyesight

Cataract and uncorrected refractive errors are the two leading causes of blindness around the world.

Stating that our eyes are the mirror of our soul is no exaggeration: they allow us to see the world around us, and to powerfully express our feelings. For this reason, vision impairment has a disruptive impact on the lives of millions of people; in most cases, their conditions are easily preventable or curable, but global efforts to improve the state of the world’s eyesight are still not sufficient. With 7 million people developing blindness every year, tackling the leading causes of vision impairment all over the world is crucial.

The Most Affected People

Millions of People Around the World Suffer from Vision Impairment

Low Vision – refers to significant visual impairment, which can’t be fully corrected by glasses, contact lenses and other treatments.

From total World’s population, around 285 million people are visually impaired. 245 million people have low vision and 35 million are BLIND, 65% of visually impaired and 82% of blind people are over 50, this age group accounts for less than 20% of the global population, 90% live in developing countries and half of the sufferers are female. It is stated that 85% of visual impairment is preventable or curable.


Blindness around the World

Leading Cause of Blindness

Cataract and uncorrected refractive errors are the two leading causes of blindness around the world.

  • Cataract 39%
  • Uncorrected Refractive Errors 18%
  • Glaucoma 10%
  • Age-Related Macular Degeneration 7%
  • Corneal Opacities 5%
  • Diabetic Retinopathy 4%
  • Other 17%

Neglected Tropical Diseases are Prevalent in Africa

Trachoma – is an eye disease which affects millions of people. If it is a recurring problem for a person, it can lead to blindness. 180 million people live in areas where Trachoma is highly prevalent, 65% of these are from African countries. Women and children are most vulnerable

River Blindness – millions of people suffer from Onchocerciasis, commonly called river blindness. It’s a disease spread by flies and can lead to blindness if not treated, 99% of the affected people live in Sub-Saharan African areas and the cost of treating this condition is about $0.1.

Cataract is the Leading Cause of Blindness in Developing Countries

Cataract is often untreated in developing countries, where access to qualified professionals is limited. For this reason, cataract is responsible for more than 50% of cases of blindness in some areas.

How Are Socio-Economic Development and Blindness Linked?

Cataract is usually treated in high-income countries, so it rarely leads to blindness. The leading cause of blindness in these areas is Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD), whereas cataract is the main cause of blindness in low and middle-income countries.

The Human Development Index (HDI) was created by the United Nations to measure and rank socio-economic development all over the world. It’s based on life expectancy at birth, mean years of schooling, expected years of schooling, and gross national income per capita.

Access to Qualified Professionals is a Major Issue

80% of visually impaired people live in developing countries, where treatable eye conditions are prevalent. This is largely due to a lack of infrastructure and qualified professionals to treat these conditions. For example, there is a severe lack of Ophthalmologists who can perform cataract surgery.

Improving the World’s Eyesight -The Goals of Vision 2020

Eliminate the main causes of avoidable blindness, and prevent the projected doubling of vision impairment by 2020. Achieving this mission means investing in health care systems and growing a workforce capable of referring and treating patients.

Clearing the Backlog

Clearing the backlog of avoidable blindness, caused by conditions such as cataract and uncorrected refractive errors, is one of Vision 2020’s main goals. The estimated cost of clearing the backlog is $23.1 bn.

Increasing Access to Primary Health Care Services

Primary health care provides the first point of contact for a person. This includes GPs and optometrists who can treat and refer patients. There is a major need to invest in the growth of this workforce to identify eye health problems. This goal can be achieved by:

  • Additional Investment in Primary Health Care
  • Increase in Average Size of Workforce

Improving Secondary Health Care Treatment

Secondary health care involves services which take place in a hospital and is not usually the first point of contact for eye care. Professionals such as Ophthalmologists, and treatments such as cataract surgery, fall into secondary health care.

Additional iInvestment in Secondary Health Care

Investing to Achieve the Goals of Vision 2020

How much is additional investment needed to eliminate avoidable blindness and prevent the projected doubling of visual impairment?

  • High Income Nation 266 bn.
  • Low and middle Income Nations 128.2 bn.


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