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The impact of visual impairment on the global community

world sight day 2020

How well you see plays a big role in how well you live. And where you live plays a big role in how well you see. 

Data on vision loss and eye diseases around the world show strong parallels between quality of life and clarity of vision. People in prosperous, high-income regions of the world have access to better eyecare and are less likely to suffer from vision-robbing diseases like glaucoma, cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Moreover, people around the globe endure the most basic visual deficit: uncorrected refractive errors (nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism) that a quick visit to an eye care professional can resolve. 

The big picture 

Public health experts estimate that a minimum of 2.2 billion people have vision loss or blindness — and half of them have a preventable or unresolved visual impairment. Most vision loss happens in the 50-and-older segment of the population.  

The strength of a region’s economy and global population trends play a significant role in vision issues. For instance, low- and middle-income regions have nearly four times more people with vision problems than those in higher-income areas.

Improvements in public health in recent decades have improved vision worldwide, but that progress is slowing as the world’s population ages. This is because the risk of vision problems — including presbyopia: the age-related loss of near vision — increases significantly after age 50.

Vision challenges around the world

Incidences of four prevalent eye problems — uncorrected refractive errors (URE), cataracts, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and glaucoma — vary widely around the world. High income nations* have notably more AMD than other regions. 

South Asia (India and its nearest neighbors) has the highest rate of URE, but AMD and glaucoma are comparatively rare. East Asia, Oceania and Southeast Asia have the highest incidence of cataracts, while glaucoma is most prevalent in Sub-Saharan Africa and Central Europe, Eastern Europe and Central Asia.  

*High-income regions are North America, Western Europe, Asia-Pacific, Australasia and Southern Latin America.

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Notes and References

International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, “GBVI – Regional Summaries

World Health Organization, “WHO launches first World report on vision

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