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World Sight Day 2015

Very few things are as important as our sight. World Sight Day is a global event that focuses on raising awareness for blindness, vision impairment, eye health, and the need for quality eye care services for everyone, everywhere.

One organization spearheading these efforts is the Vision Impact Institute, which focuses on the socio-economic effect of uncorrectedrefractive errors (URE) and the quality of life advantages of visual correction. To commemorate World Sight Day on October 8th, let’s explore some of the facts about vision impairment worldwide:

The State of Global Eye Health

Worldwide, over 285 million people are estimated to be visually impaired, and 39 million people are estimated to be blind, according to a study by Dr. Donatella Pascolini posted on The Vision Impact Institute’s website. The number of people who are visually impaired is expected to grow to approximately 929 million people by 2020.

Globally, uncorrected refractive errors (URE) like myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), and presbyopia are among the most common cause of low vision in middle- and low-income countries. In fact, UREs are the second cause of blindness.

The current state of worldwide vision care has been unable to handle the estimated 703 million cases of vision impairment from UREs, leaving an estimated 10 percent of the world’s population underserved. UREs can impair quality of life by reducing school performance, employability, and productivity.

Who is at Risk?

Children- Approximately 10 percent of primary school students in developing countries have poor vision, with very few wearing glasses. Children with visual acuity below 20/20 are three times more likely to fail at least one grade.

Adults- Globally, there are an estimated 1.272 billion people living with presbyopia—the gradual age-related loss of the ability to focus on nearby objects. Over half of these cases are uncorrected, resulting in a likely $11 billion productivity loss in individuals, aged 50 and over.

Elderly- recent study posted by the Vision Impact Institute showed that 82 percent of people living with blindness, and 65 percent of people living with visual impairment, are over the age of 50. Visual impairment is caused by eye trauma and ocular disease. Moreover, UREs are one of the leading causes of decreased activity in the elderly. It is estimated that 288 million people will be affected by age-related macular degeneration by 2040 with cataracts as the leading cause of blindness worldwide.

Benefits of Global Vision Correction

Surprisingly, 80% of all visual impairment can be prevented or cured with cost-effective solutions like the use of appropriate eyeglasses for the correction of UREs. A recent study by the University of Minnesota showed that students with poor vision who wore glasses for one year increased their average test scores— the equivalent of learning up to an additional half year of schooling, with higher benefits for under-performing students. Additionally, improved correction of presbyopia globally would reduce productivity burdens by 87 percent and increase economic development in low-income countries.

Image source: Flickr