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Public health services around the world are failing to meet goals to reduce preventable vision loss, according to a new study published today (Dec. 1) in The Lancet Global Health.

The study examined all population-based eye disease surveys worldwide since 1980. The results were compared to the World Health Assembly’s global action plan, which aimed to reduce preventable vision loss by 25% over the past decade.

The total number of blind and visually impaired people has increased. Taking into account the aging of the population, there has been a 15.4% decrease in preventable blindness since 2010, but no significant decrease in moderate or severe vision loss.

The researchers found that the main cause of blindness is cataract, which makes up 15 million people, accounting for about 45% of the 33.6 million cases of global blindness. It also causes severe vision problems in 78 million people and can be treated surgically.

Uncorrected refractive error, a condition that can easily be treated with glasses, is the major contributor to moderate or severely impaired distance vision, which affects an estimated 86 million people around the world. It is estimated that more than 500 million people live with uncorrected presbyopia, which can be easily corrected with reading glasses.

An important but less easily treatable cause of vision loss is glaucoma – the leading cause of vision loss in high-income countries; diabetic retinopathy; and age-related macular degeneration.

The study also found an increase in vision loss due to diabetic retinopathy, which is particularly important in younger, economically active age groups. This can be avoided through early detection and timely intervention.

Lead author Rupert Bourne, professor of ophthalmology at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), said, “The results of this study show that eye care services efforts around the world have not kept pace with the aging and growing population. and have failed to meet the goals set by the World Health Assembly.While the prevalence of blindness has decreased, the number of cases has actually increased.

“If this continues, the health infrastructure will continue to creak and fail to reach people who need relatively simple solutions to their vision loss. The effects of COVID-19 are likely to exacerbate this problem as research has already shown delays and an increasing backlog of People who need eye care.

“It is absolutely vital that all nations have a solid public health strategy in place to deal with preventable vision loss that costs healthcare services billions of pounds each year.”

A second report, also published today by the same group in Lancet Global Health, warns that global blindness and severe visual impairment will double by 2050.

Serge Resnikoff, professor at the University of New South Wales and senior author, said, “By 2050, 1.7 billion people are expected to be affected by vision loss due to population growth and aging, particularly in low and middle-income countries Additional investment and concerted Action is urgently needed to reverse this trend and provide quality services to all, including the most vulnerable and currently neglected populations. “

Theo Vos, Professor of Health Metrics Sciences at the Institute of Health Metrics and Assessment (IHME) in Seattle, said: “Blindness and vision loss rank eighth among all causes of disability in 50 to 69 year olds and fourth among over 60 year olds 70. The ability to prevent or treat blindness and vision loss is greater in these age groups than the most common causes of disability such as back pain, age-related hearing loss and diabetes. “

Professor Bourne from Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) heads the Vision Loss Expert Group, which provides information on the Global Burden of Disease project jointly managed by Professor Vos.

Both studies were funded by the Brien Holden Vision Institute, the Fondation Théa, the Fred Hollows Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Lions Clubs International Foundation, Sightsavers International, and Heidelberg University.

Blindness and vision loss will double by 2050

More information:
The Lancet Global Health (2020). DOI: 10.1016 / S2214-109X (20) 30489-7 Provided by Anglia Ruskin University

Quote: Targets for Avoidable Vision Loss Not Achieved (2020, December 1), accessed December 1, 2020 from

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