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It’s a Fact…

The number of people with some degree of vision loss is growing rapidly, especially among senior populations. Conditions such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, or optic nerve disease are common among US residents, 65 years and older. AMD accounts for almost 45 percent of all cases of low vision in the US.

8 percent of all Americans have diabetes, a top cause of vision loss. The number of Americans with diabetes has grown to about 24 million people – an increase of about 3 million over two years – according to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in June 2008. The CDC estimates another 57 million people have pre-diabetes, which puts them at increased risk for the disease.

Visual impairment and blindness
Fact Sheet N°282
Updated October 2013

Key facts
* 285 million people are estimated to be visually impaired worldwide: 39 million are blind and 246 have low vision.
* About 90% of the world’s visually impaired live in developing countries.
* 82% of people living with blindness are aged 50 and above.
* Globally, uncorrected refractive errors are the main cause of visual impairment; cataracts remain the leading cause of blindness in middle- and low-income countries.
* The number of people visually impaired from infectious diseases has greatly reduced in the last 20 years.
* 80% of all visual impairment can be avoided or cured.


There are four levels of visual function, according to the International Classification of Diseases -10 (Update and Revision 2006):
* normal vision
* moderate visual impairment
* severe visual impairment
* blindness.

Moderate visual impairment combined with severe visual impairment are grouped under the term “low vision”: low vision taken together with blindness represents all visual impairment.
The causes of visual impairment

Globally the major causes of visual impairment are:
* uncorrected refractive errors (myopia, hyperopia or astigmatism), 43 %
* unoperated cataract, 33%
* glaucoma, 2%.

Who is at risk?
Approximately 90% of visually impaired people live in developing countries.

People aged 50 and over
About 65 % of all people who are visually impaired are aged 50 and older, while this age group comprises about 20 % of the world’s population. With an increasing elderly population in many countries, more people will be at risk of age-related visual impairment.

Children below age 15
An estimated 19 million children are visually impaired. Of these, 12 million children are visually impaired due to refractive errors, a condition that could be easily diagnosed and corrected. 1.4 million are irreversibly blind for the rest of their lives.