Blindness and visual impairment decreasing worldwide

Image: PD

1. As of 2010, approximately 32 million people (0.5% of the world’s population) were blind, 60% of which were women. Most of these blind individuals were from South Asia (10.6 million), followed by East Asia (5.2 million) and Southeast Asia (3.5 million.)

2. Among older adults, blindness prevalence decreased from 3.0% in 1990 to 1.9% in 2010, while visual impairment decreased from 14.3% to 10.3%.

Evidence Rating Level: 2 (Good)

Study Rundown: This meta-analysis provides crucial information in identifying areas that still lack proper eye care and assessing the effect of interventions conducted worldwide. Most blind or visually impaired individuals are in South Asia, East Asia, or Southeast Asia, which is not surprising given the numerous developing nations in these areas. Visual impairment is more prevalent among women, which is surprising but could be related to access to care challenges in various parts of the world. While the prevalence of visual impairment decreased over 20 years, it did not decrease further than age-standardized prevalence; thus, the analysis demonstrates that while current global interventions to improve vision are successful, they need to be increased in order to compensate for the aging global population and overall population growth. Limitations of this analysis include the amount of estimation calculated based on statistical modeling; even age needed to be estimated from certain studies, especially for adults. Data on children were lacking, and many countries did not have data available. Nonetheless, this study serves as a valuable resource for assessing visual needs on a global scale.

Click to read the study in Ophthalmology

Relevant Reading: Prevalence and Causes of Visual Field Loss in the Elderly and Associations With Impairment in Daily Functioning

In Depth [systematic review]: This meta-analysis attempted to estimate global prevalence of visual impairment and blindness while assessing changes in prevalence in various geographic areas from 1990 to 2010. Visual acuity data from 243 peer-reviewed studies were utilized to estimate the prevalence of blindness and visual impairment. Statistical regression models were then used to estimate these metrics by country, gender, age, and year. The study determined that as of 2010, approximately 32 million people (0.5% of the world’s population) were blind, 60% of which were women. Most of these blind individuals were from South Asia (10.6 million), followed by East Asia (5.2 million) and Southeast Asia (3.5 million.) An additional 2.8% of the world’s population (191 million) had significant visual impairment, 57% of which were women. In contrast, only 0.1% of North America’s population was blind and 0.9% of North Americans had visual impairment. Vision loss mostly affected those older than 50 (77% and 85% of the blindness and visual impairment population respectively). Geographical prevalence of blindness was highest in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and North Africa with more than 50% of the world’s blind population in 5 countries – India, China, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Nigeria. Among older adults, blindness prevalence decreased from 3.0% in 1990 to 1.9% in 2010, while visual impairment decreased from 14.3% to 10.3%. These decreases were lower than expected, given the higher proportion of older adults in the world population.

By Swarup Swaminathan and Andrew Bishara

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