Breaking News : 2.2 billion people have vision impairment or blindness

World Health Organization

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WHO
launches first World report on vision

At least
2.2 billion people have vision impairment or blindness, of which over 1 billion
cases could have been prevented or have yet to be addressed

Geneva, 8
October 2019 : More than 1 billion people worldwide are living with vision
impairment  because they do not get the
care they need for conditions like short and far sightedness, glaucoma
and cataract,
  according to the
first World report on vision issued by the World Health Organization.

World
Sight Day on 10 October,

The report,
launched ahead of World Sight Day on 10 October, found that
ageing populations,  changing lifestyles
and limited access to eye care, particularly in low- and middle-income
countries, are among the main drivers of the rising numbers of people living
with vision impairment.

“Eye
conditions and vision impairment are widespread, and far too often they still
go untreated,” says Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.
“People who need eye care must be able to receive quality interventions without
suffering financial hardship. Including eye care in national health plans and
essential packages of care is an important part of every country’s journey
towards universal health coverage.”

Dr Tedros
adds: “It is unacceptable that 65 million people are blind or have impaired
sight when their vision could have been corrected overnight with a cataract
operation, or that over 800 million struggle in everyday activities because
they lack access to a pair of glasses.”

Globally, 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.

Other
main findings of the WHO report include:

The burden of eye conditions and vision impairment is not
borne equally: it is often far greater in people living in rural areas, those
with low incomes, women, older people, people with disabilities, ethnic
minorities and indigenous populations.

The unmet
need of distance vision impairment in low- and middle-income regions is estimated
to be four times higher than in high-income regions.

Low- and
middle-income regions of western and eastern sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia
have rates of blindness that are eight times higher than in all high-income
countries. Rates of cataract and trachomatous trichiasis are higher among
women, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.

US$14.3
billion is needed to address the backlog of 1 billion people living with vision
impairment or blindness due to short and far sightedness, and cataracts.

Main
causes of rising cases of vision impairment

Eye
conditions that can cause vision impairment and blindness – such as cataract,
trachoma and refractive error – are the main focus of national prevention and
other eye care strategies. But eye conditions that do not typically impair
vision, including dry eye and conjunctivitis, must not be overlooked as they
are among the main reasons for people to seek eye health care services in all
countries, the report states.

The
combination of a growing and ageing population will significantly increase the
total number of people with eye conditions and vision impairment, since
prevalence increases with age.

Other
main drivers of the most common eye conditions include:

Myopia
(near-sightedness):
Increased time spent indoors  and
increased “near work” activities are leading to more people suffering from
myopia. Increased outdoor time can reduce this risk.

Diabetic
retinopathy
:
increasing numbers of people are living with diabetes, particularly Type 2,
which can impact vision if not detected and treated. Nearly all people with
diabetes will have some form of retinopathy in their lifetimes. Routine eye
checks and good diabetes control can protect people’s vision from this
condition.

Late
detection: Due to weak or poorly integrated eye care services, many people lack
access to routine checks that can detect conditions and lead to the delivery of
appropriate preventive care or treatment. 

Access to
services

Stronger integration of eye care is needed within national health services, including at primary health care level, to ensure that the eye care needs of more people are addressed, including through prevention, early detection, treatment and rehabilitation, the report found.

Dr Alarcos
Cieza, who heads WHO’s work to address blindness and vision impairment, says:
“Millions of people have severe vision impairment and are not able to
participate in society to their fullest because they can’t access
rehabilitation services. In a world built on the ability to see, l eye care
services, including rehabilitation, must be provided closer to communities for
people to achieve their maximum potential.”

The report states that all people living with blindness and severe vision impairment who cannot be treated are still able to lead independent lives if they access rehabilitation services. Options include optical magnifiers and reading use Braille, to smartphone wayfinders and orientation and mobility training with white canes.

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