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Eye Conditions

Blindness and vision impairment

Prevalence
Globally, it is estimated that at least 2.2 billion people have a vision impairment or blindness, of whom at least 1 billion have a vision impairment that could have been prevented or has yet to be addressed.

This 1 billion people includes those with moderate or severe distance vision impairment or blindness due to unaddressed refractive error (123.7 million), cataract (65.2 million), glaucoma (6.9 million), corneal opacities (4.2 million), diabetic retinopathy (3 million), and trachoma (2 million), as well as near vision impairment caused by unaddressed presbyopia (826 million) (1).

In terms of regional differences, the prevalence of distance vision impairment in low- and middle-income regions is estimated to be four times higher than in high-income regions (1). With regards to near vision, rates of unaddressed near vision impairment are estimated to be greater than 80% in western, eastern and central sub-Saharan Africa, while comparative rates in high-income regions of North America, Australasia, Western Europe, and of Asia-Pacific are reported to be lower than 10% (2).

Population growth and ageing will increase the risk that more people acquire vision impairment.  

Causes

Globally, the leading causes of vision impairment are:
  • uncorrected refractive errors
  • cataract
  • age-related macular degeneration
  • glaucoma
  • diabetic retinopathy
  • corneal opacity
  • trachoma.
There is some variation in the causes across countries. For example, the proportion of vision impairment attributable to cataract is higher in low- and middle-income countries than high-income countries. In high income countries, diseases such as diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration are more common.

Among children, the causes of vision impairment vary considerably across countries. For example, in low-income countries congenital cataract is a leading cause, whereas in high income countries it is more likely to be retinopathy of prematurity.

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