Blind to triple due to ag­ing, pop­u­la­tion growth

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD -

PARIS — The world’s blind will in­crease three­fold from about 36 mil­lion to­day to 115 mil­lion in 2050 as pop­u­la­tions ex­pand and in­di­vid­u­als grow ever older, re­searchers said on Thurs­day.

The num­ber of peo­ple with a mod­er­ate to se­vere vi­sion im­pair­ment — only those not cor­rected by glasses, con­tact lenses or an op­er­a­tion — will also near triple, from about 217 mil­lion to 588 mil­lion over the same pe­riod.

Most of those af­fected live in Africa and Asia, a team wrote in The Lancet Global Health jour­nal.

Look­ing at data from 188 coun­tries, the re­searchers con­cluded that the preva­lence of blindness — the num­ber of blind per pop­u­la­tion group — de­creased from 0.75 per­cent in 1990 to 0.48 per­cent in 2015.

The rate of mod­er­ate to se­vere vis­ual im­pair­ment de­clined from 3.83 per­cent to 2.9 per­cent over the same time.

“This is al­most cer­tainly be­cause of im­proved health in­ter­ven­tions,” such as cataract surgery, said study co-author Ru­pert Bourne of the Anglia Ruskin Uni­ver­sity.

But the rough num­bers have not stopped ris­ing in step with pop­u­la­tion growth and ag­ing. Most vis­ual prob­lems oc­cur in older peo­ple.

The new fore­cast is based on United Na­tions pop­u­la­tion pro­jec­tions, even as­sum­ing that the preva­lence con­tin­ues to de­cline, said Bourne.

The re­search did not con­sider the im­pact of pos­si­ble im­prove­ments in di­ag­no­sis, treat­ment, and ac­cess to health­care, as “no­body can ac­cu­rately es­ti­mate” what those will be, he added.

Some­one with mod­er­ate vis­ual im­pair­ment is con­sid- ered to be un­able to legally drive, and would not rec­og­nize an­other per­son from across the street.

“With the num­ber of peo­ple with vi­sion im­pair­ment ac­cel­er­at­ing, we must take ac­tion to in­crease our cur­rent treat­ment ef­forts at global, re­gional and coun­try lev­els,” Bourne said.

“In­vest­ing in th­ese treat­ments has pre­vi­ously reaped con­sid­er­able ben­e­fits, in­clud­ing im­proved qual­ity of life, and eco­nomic ben­e­fits as peo­ple re­main in work.”

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