A new study put out by the international Vision Loss Expert Group (VLEG) suggests about half of the vision complaints in the First World could have been avoided with a simple pair of eyeglasses.
Researchers around the world tracked 25 years of eye health data from 50 wealthy countries in this comprehensive review. Interestingly, the leading cause of moderate to severe vision impairment (MSVI) in the nations surveyed was not correcting refractive errors with proper eyeglasses.Untreated refractive errors accounted for 49.6 percent of all MSVI cases in Western Europe.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) was the second leading cause of MSVI in Western Europe after untreated refractive errors. The common retinal disease accounted for 15.5 percent of all MSVI cases.
Researchers also discovered that cataracts was the leading cause of blindness in all of the nations surveyed, accounting for almost 22 percent of cases. AMD came in second place in this category with about 16.3 percent followed by glaucoma with 13.5 percent.
Of all the countries studied, Belgium had the smallest percentage of blind people. Only 0.46 percent of Belgians over the age of 50 suffer from blindness. Other nations that scored low in terms of blindness percentages include Iceland, Denmark, Norway, and the UK.
Estonia had the worst rating for blindness cases in over 50-year-olds. According to this data, about 1.5 percent of Estonians are blind. A few other nations that had a higher than average percentage of blind citizens include Moldova, Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Croatia.
Turning to MSVI cases, Iceland had the lowest score with approximately 3 percent of the population suffering from MSVI. Rounding out the top five countries in terms of MSVI are the following nations: France, Andorra, Italy, and Luxembourg.
Moldova had the highest percentage of its population suffering from MSVI with an average score of 7.5 percent. A few other nations that performed poorly in the MSVI category include Singapore, Norway, Russia, Lithuania, and Ukraine.
After studying this data, study authors said they believe the percentage of people suffering from blindness or MSVI in these countries will go down even though the overall number of people afflicted with these diseases will go up. They blame the rise in visual cases on the increasingly aging population. According to latest estimates, about 69 million people in the 50 nations surveyed will have some major vision issue after they reach the age of 50.
The best thing citizens of any nation can do to protect their eye health is to get a yearly eye screening, especially after the age of 40. Serious diseases like glaucoma, cataracts, and AMD often don't present visual symptoms until they have progressed a great deal. Doctors can do far more to reduce visual symptoms of these diseases if they catch them in the early stages.
The VLEG is composed of nine major eye care institutions around the world and is a major contributor to the World Health Organization's Global Burden of Disease Study. Some of the VLEG's "core members" include England's Anglia Ruskin University, India's L V Prasad Eye Institute, and Australia's Brien Holden Vision Institute.
Rupert Bourne, who teaches at Anglia Ruskin University, was the lead author of this study. A few other researchers who collaborated on this study include San Raffaele Scientific Institute's Maria Vittoria Cicinelli, L V Prasad Eye Institute's Jill E. Keeffe, and Nova Southeastern University's Janet Leasher.
Anyone interested in this study can read this entire report in the latest edition of the British Journal of Ophthalmology. Authors entitled their study, "Prevalence and causes of vision loss in high-income countries and in Eastern and Central Europe in 2015: magnitude, temporal trends and projections."