HYDERABAD, India--()--October 11th is World Sight Day, a global observance uniting citizens, nonprofit groups and corporations in an effort to fight eye disorders and improve the lives of those suffering with these disorders.
“The causes of avoidable blindness are frequently associated with poverty and lack of access to quality eye care services”
Of the 40 million blind people in the world, 80 percent have avoidable blindness that can be prevented or treated by cost-effective means.1 However, millions of people remain at risk of visual loss due to unhealthy lifestyle or lack of access to eye-care services.
Here are some eye-opening statistics:
Cataract: While cataract surgery is one of the most cost-effective health-care treatments2, cataracts represent almost half of all causes of blindness, accounting for almost 18 million cases.3
Nearsightedness, Farsightedness and Astigmatism: Despite the growing availability of low-cost spectacles, approximately 153 million people suffer visual impairment from these and other types of refractive errors.4
Trachoma: Caused by a bacterial infection of the eye, often resulting from poor water supplies and unsanitary living conditions, trachoma is widespread in 55 countries, affecting about 80 million people.
Blindness Caused by Diabetes: Known as Diabetic Retinopathy, this condition affects 40-45 percent of American diabetics. After 15 years, 10 percent of diabetics develop severe visual loss and 2 percent become blind; once vision has been lost to diabetic retinopathy, it usually cannot be restored.5
Glaucoma: Often called “the sneak thief of sight” because it can strike without common symptoms. Given the aging population, the World Health Organization projects that almost 80 million people will have glaucoma by 2020.6
Here is a list of recommendations that provide practical steps people can take to maintain good eye health.
People in Developing Nations Face Higher Burden of Blindness
Ninety percent of the world’s blind live in developing nations, where multiple factors contribute to higher prevalence of blindness and visual impairment. This includes countries like India, with more than nine million blind people; China, with more than six million blind people; and other nations in Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Historically, these countries have a higher prevalence of Vitamin A Deficiency, River blindness and infections such as trachoma, the leading causes of preventable childhood blindness. 7 People living in rural villages and urban slums in these countries are particularly vulnerable to avoidable blindness due to a lack of access to basic eye care resources.8
“The causes of avoidable blindness are frequently associated with poverty and lack of access to quality eye care services,” says Dr. Gullapalli Nag Rao, founder of L V Prasad Eye Institute in India, which has treated more than 15 million patients—more than half at no cost—since its establishment in 1987. “With advances in medical science enabling more effective and affordable preventions and treatments of these conditions, we now have an opportunity to make significant progress in the quest to end avoidable blindness. To that end, it is critical for concerned individuals and groups around the world to continue working together to build awareness of this issue and to support initiatives that promote good eye health.”
Americans can help fight blindness in developing nations by supporting international nonprofit groups based in the US, with financial donations and volunteer community projects. The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness also provides a list of worthwhile organizations for people interested in providing support.
“Regardless of how you choose to contribute to the fight against blindness, your support can actually change the way someone sees the world,” Dr. Rao said.
L V Prasad Eye Institute
The L V Prasad Eye Institute conducts cutting-edge eye care research; provides comprehensive patient care, sight enhancement and rehabilitation services at the Institute and through its rural eye health network; and offers professional ophthalmic training at all levels. The Institute is a World Health Organization (WHO) Center for the Prevention of Blindness and a Global Resource Center for VISION 2020, a worldwide initiative for the elimination of avoidable blindness led by WHO and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness. For further information, visit the Institute’s website, www.lvpei.org.