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The global burden of blindness

image-toolsThe global prevalence of blindness and moderate to severe vision impairment has reduced markedly in terms of percentage over 1990-2010, according to a comprehensive review published in the journal Ophthalmology.

However, because of population growth and the relative increase in older adults in every region of the world, there has been an overall but relatively small increase in the number of people with vision impairment and blindness.

Globally, there were 32.4 million blind people in 2010, and 191 million people with moderate and severe vision impairment. Of these numbers, the review showed that more than half of the world’s blind lived in the most populated countries: India, China, Indonesia, Pakistan and Nigeria.

The burden of vision impairment continues to be greatest among those 50 years of age or older. Within this age category were 85% of the people who are blind and 78% of those with moderate to severe vision impairment.

The prevalence of blindness in women was also greater than men in all world regions. The prevalence of age-standardised blindness for women was more than 1.5 times higher than men in high-income regions.

The review was undertaken by the Vision Loss Expert Group, a global collaboration of almost 80 ophthalmologists and optometrists, including the Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA) and the University of Melbourne.

According to Department of Ophthalmology honorary and report co-author Professor Jill Keeffe OAM, estimating trends in the global burden of blindness and vision impairment is important in understanding areas of unmet need and the effects of interventions such as cataract surgery.

“The percentage of people across the world with blindness and vision impairment has pleasingly decreased due to a concerted effort by governments and eye health organisations,” she said.

“However, the need for further measures is significant and likely to grow with ageing and growing populations in high risk countries.”