Uncorrected refractive error (URE) — nearsightedness, farsightedness, and other focusing problems correctable by prescription lenses — is responsible for moderate to severe vision impairment in 101 million people and blindness in seven million people worldwide, reports a new report. The study authors note that their total of 108 million affected by URE accounts for 1 out of 90 of the world population.
Refractive error refers to any of the common vision problems causing decreased sharpness of vision, including myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia, (farsightedness), or astigmatism. In developed countries, eyeglasses or contact lenses are routinely prescribed to correct these causes of impaired vision.
But millions of people around the world still have impaired vision or even blindness caused by URE. This potentially correctable vision impairment has a profound social and economic impact, including limiting educational and employment opportunities for individuals, families, and communities.
According to the report, between 1990 and 2010, the number of people with blindness caused by URE increased by about eight percent and the number with vision impairment increased by 15 percent, compared to a 30 percent increase in world population.
In most regions, the proportion of moderate to severe vision impairment caused by URE ranged from 44 to 48 percent. The exception was South Asia, where the figure was over 65 percent; possibly reflecting the younger population in that region.
The study authors conclude by emphasizing that globally one of the most simple, effective, and cost effective ways to improve the burden of vision loss would be to provide access to affordable adequate spectacles to correct refractive errors.