According to World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates, about 80% of global blindness is avoidable.
Avoidable blindness is defined as blindness that can be prevented or treated by known, cost-effective means. With the global burden of blindness growing, urgent intervention is needed to curb this trend.
Blindness: the landscape
There are an estimated 180 million people worldwide who are visually disabled.
The loss of sight not only causes enormous difficulty and suffering for the individuals and their families and close circle, but also places strain on the public health, social and economic sectors of countries, especially developing countries.
Nine out of ten of the world’s blind live in these countries, with over 60% residing in sub-Saharan Africa, China and India.
Despite fifty years of work, the rapid growth and ageing of the population means that the burden of blindness is growing, and putting strain on efforts to treat and prevent blindness.
Almost 80% of blindness can be treated or prevented using current technology and methods.
What are the leading causes of blindness?
The three main causes of blindness are cataract, glaucoma and trachoma, and are responsible for nearly 70% of the world’s blindness.
Cataract is one of the universal causes of blindness, causing clouding in the lenses of your eyes, affecting the vision. This condition is more commonly found in older people.
Glaucoma damages the eye’s optic nerve, usually happening when the fluid pressure inside the eye slowly rises, which causes the damage.
Trachoma is caused by repeated eye infections, which wear down the eye and eventually cause blindness. This is most common in developing nations, as it can be an effect of poor health and environmental conditions.
However, there are a number of other diseases that also cause blindness:
- childhood blindness
- onchocerciasis or river blindness
- blindness as a symptom of diabetes
- Macular degeneration
What can be done about it?
One of the most important ways of combatting avoidable blindness is to visit your eye doctor regularly, and get your eyes checked.
There are also a number of lifestyle changes you can make that can help ensure you are taking care of your eyes as much as possible.
WHO and a special task force of NGOs have also put together an initiative called VISION 2020, a broad, worldwide collaboration focusing on preventing blindness and eye care delivery. The initiative will also focus on alleviating some of the social, economic and personal impacts of blindness.
In South Africa, the national and provincial health departments will be focusing on eye care and delivery of these services to disadvantaged, under-serviced and rural communities for the month of October.
All South Africans are encouraged to test their eyes during this time, and as the hot days of summer approach, protect their eyes using shades.
No one should have to deal with blindness as a result of negligence and lack of access to treatment and as, globally, blindness becomes a focal point for health and private sectors, we can all do our bit to prevent blindness affecting our lives.
Links / References:
International Agency for the Prevention (IAPB) – What is Avoidable Blindness. Retrieved from http://www.iapb.org/knowledge/what-is-avoidable-blindnessd.html
World Health Orginisation – Blindness: Vision 2020 – The Global Initiative for the Elimination of Avoidable Blindness (Fact sheet N°213). Retrieved from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs213/en/llaboutvision.com/cvs/irritated
World Health Orginisation – Causes of blindness and visual impairment. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/blindness/causes/en/
South African National Council for the Blind – Blindness Prevention. Retrieved from http://www.sancb.org.za/categories/your-eyes/blindness-prevention
LEADING CAUSES OF BLINDNESS WORLDWIDE (ROODHOOFT J.M.J.). Retrieved from http://sv51.dna.com.br/sbop/conteudo/LEADING_CAUSES_OF_BLINDNESS.pdf
NIH Medline Plus – Leading Causes of Blindness. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/magazine/issues/summer08/articles/summer08pg14-15.html