Vision impairment is a major issue affecting people from all over the world.
According to the recently published WHO World Report on Vision, 2.2 billion out of the approximately worldwide 7.7 billion individuals suffer, in some form, from visual impairment. The cause of this, one living in a developed country would assume, would be due to cataract, glaucoma or retinal disease.
As life expectancy advances, over 1.8 billion people around the world suffer from untreated presbyopia. Without proper reading glasses, their vision deteriorates. One would also assume that reversing the effects of presbyopia via pharmacologic treatment would be a luxury.
Both assumptions would be false. Board certified ophthalmologist, and founder and attending surgeon at Minnesota Eye Consultants, Dr. Richard L. Lindstrom, says that the number one cause of visual impairment is uncorrected refractive error.
In order to treat the ongoing worldwide epidemic of myopia, Lindstrom says corneal refractive surgery is vital. It is not, as most would believe, a lifestyle enhancement affordable to only a few. The effects are safe and far surpass glasses or contact lenses, while being relatively cost-effective and beneficial to those living in challenging, rural environments.
In addition, an eye drop used to treat presbyopia, Lindstrom notes, is optimal, for ensuring overall vision for those over the age of 45 is not hampered when conducting daily tasks.
As it pertains to more developed countries, there are approximately 65.2 million people worldwide who, while initially untreated, can benefit from cataract eye surgery. Lindstrom says that, for the 7.7 billion people in the world, there should be roughly 62 million cataract surgeries performed every year.
Each year, there continues to be more patients living with visual impairment that could essentially be “cured” through the 20-minute surgical procedure.
Lindstrom says the real challenge here is human and financially-based, as well as being able to have trained personnel providing the necessary surgery to those affected based on where they live, even in places such as sub-Saharan Africa, Siberia, Mongolia, or rural Minnesota.
For example, in the U.S., Lindstrom says there is approximately one eye care provider per a 6,000 population. Amplifying this ratio to a worldwide level, there would need to be 1,283,000 available eye doctors. Currently, at best, there are 400,000 eye doctors globally, falling short of the required 1,283,000.
In overcoming these worldwide challenges, Lindstrom remains optimistic about the progress being made. He says that creativity and innovation are critical, as the desired number of trained, worldwide eye doctors can never be reached.
The WHO continues to support universal health coverage, eye care as part of that coverage, and adopting integrated eye care delivery models using community resources.
These, when used alongside a people-centered care model appropriate to the local environment, together with a continual evaluation in the progress being made to reduce worldwide vision loss, make for reachable goals.
Vision impairment is a worldwide endemic, but not totally impossible to resolve.