World Sight Day (WSD) is an annual day of awareness held on the second Thursday of October, to focus global attention on blindness and vision impairment and an educational element to better understand the challenges blind and visually impaired people face each and every day.
The goal is to improve the lives of children and adults who are blind or visually impaired and understand the realities of living without sight and recognized the importance of expanding the education to the public.
10 Facts about Blindness and Visual Impairment according to the World Health Organization (WHO)
1. 285 million visually impaired people. In 2010, the number of people visually impaired was estimated to be 285 million, of whom 39 million were blind. This is a reduction in the number of people previously estimated as being visually impaired in 2004. This can be due to better data, but also due to interventions which have reduced the number of people with avoidable visual impairment.
2. An estimated 120 million are visually impaired because of uncorrected refractive errors. Refractive errors (far and near sightedness) are among the simplest to correct cases of visual impairment; almost all of them can be corrected and normal vision can be restored with eyeglasses, contact lenses or refractive surgery.
3. 90% of visually impaired people live in low-and middle-income countries. For these people the access to preventive care education, curative services and quality rehabilitation is not yet universally available.
4. An estimated 82% of all people with blindness are over 50 years old. This number is expected to increase with the world’s population aging. The leading cause of blindness for these people is cataract which is a curable condition.
5. 28% of people living with moderate and severe visual impairment are in their working years. Visual limitations impact the ability of working people to conduct a productive life. This impacts their ability to find employment and support themselves and provide for their families.
6. Retinal diseases are the main causes of visual impairment in upper-middle-and high-income countries. There is a need to target the exposure to risk factors (smoke, genetic pre-disposition, systemic diseases) and perform regular eye examinations to allow an early diagnosis of the disease, and early treatment to avoid or delay the onset of diminished visual function.
7. Up to 80% of visual impairment and blindness in adults is preventable or treatable. In lower- and lower-middle-income countries the majority of causes of visual impairment are preventable or curable. To achieve a substantial reduction, the general public needs to be educated in preventive measures. The health care system needs to include eye care services to achieve a universal health coverage.
8. A goal to reduce visual impairments by 25% by 2019. The 66th World Health Assembly approved an Action Plan which aims to achieve a global reduction of avoidable visual impairments of 25% by 2019. This is an achievable target which requires the collaboration of governments, development agencies, private sector and NGOs
9. Around 1.4 million children are blind. The major causes of blindness in children include cataract, retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), and vitamin A deficiency. Approximately half of all childhood blindness can be avoided or treated. A global program in 30 countries, through a partnership between WHO and Lions Clubs International, is providing eye care services to preserve and restore sight in children.
10. WHO provides support and assistance. WHO works with Member States and international partners to eliminate the main causes of avoidable blindness, focusing on priority chronic diseases (cataract, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, Age-related Macular Degeneration, refractive errors) and visual rehabilitation, by providing direct technical assistance, piloting innovative approaches, support in monitoring and ensuring global coordination. Eye care services should now be included in universal access to health care.
To schedule an eye exam call (910) 484-2284 or to learn more about eye conditions and treatments visit www.capefeareye.com.
To learn more about programs for the visually impaired in your community visit The Vision Resource Center at www.visionresourcecentercc.org or to volunteer call (910) 483-2719.