Globally, public health services are failing to meet targets to reduce avoidable sight loss, stated a new study published today in The Lancet Global Health.
The study examined all population-based surveys of eye disease worldwide since 1980; the findings were compared to the World Health Assembly Global Action Plan, which aimed to reduce avoidable sight loss by 25% over the last decade.
The study revealed that the overall number of individuals blind and vision-impaired had increased.
Causes of vision loss/blindness
Cataracts are identified as the leading cause of blindness, accounting for 15 million people, around 45% of the 33.6 million cases of global blindness. It also causes severe vision impairment in 78 million people and is treatable by surgery.
The uncorrected refractive error condition is the major contributor to moderate or severely impaired distance vision. It affects 86 million people globally. More than 500 million people are estimated to be living with uncorrected presbyopia (aging eye condition).
Glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and age-related macular degeneration are the less easily treatable causes of vision loss.
Lead author Rupert Bourne, Professor of Ophthalmology at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), said: "It is clear from the results of this study that efforts by eye care services across the world have failed to keep pace with the ageing and growth of populations, and have failed to reach targets set by the World Health Assembly. While prevalence of blindness has decreased, the number of cases has actually risen. "If this continues, health infrastructure will continue to creak and fail to reach the people that need relatively simple solutions to their vision loss. The effect of COVID-19 is likely to exacerbate this issue, with research having already shown delays and an increasing backlog of people in need of eye care." Serge Resnikoff, Professor at the University of New South Wales, and a senior author, said: "By 2050, vision loss is projected to affect 1.7 billion people because of population growth and ageing, especially in low- and middle-income countries. Significant additional investments and concerted actions are urgently needed to reverse this trend and provide quality services to everyone, including to the vulnerable and currently neglected populations."