February 01, 2018
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Cataract, refractive error remain leading causes of global blindness

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Cataract was the leading cause of blindness in people of all ages worldwide in 2015, according to a study.

A systematic review and meta-analysis of 288 studies from 98 countries aimed to evaluate the causes of blindness and visual impairment.

Of the 36 million people who were blind in 2015, cataract was the cause in 12.6 million people. Uncorrected refractive error was responsible in 7.4 million people and glaucoma in 2.9 million people.

In those 50 years and older, cataract was also the leading cause of blindness, followed by uncorrected refractive error and glaucoma.

The leading causes of moderate or severe vision impairment, which encompassed 216.6 million people, were uncorrected refractive error (116.3 million), cataract (52.6 million), age-related macular degeneration (8.4 million), glaucoma (4 million) and diabetic retinopathy (2.6 million).

The authors extrapolated the data to project the leading causes of blindness by 2020. It is estimated that by then there will be 38.5 million people with blindness across the globe and that cataracts will be the cause in 13.4 million people.

“The number of people affected by the common causes of vision loss has increased substantially as the population increases and ages. Preventable vision loss due to cataract (reversible with surgery) and refractive error (reversible with spectacle correction) continue to cause most cases of blindness and moderate or severe vision impairment in adults aged 50 and older,” the authors wrote. “A large scale-up of eye care provision to cope with the increasing numbers is needed to address avoidable vision loss.”

More attention should be directed toward reducing the number of people with avoidable vision impairment in order to keep pace with the aging global population, they added. – by Rebecca L. Forand

 

Disclosure: The study was funded by Brien Holden Vision Institute. Please see the study for all authors’ relevant financial disclosures.