Credit: Unsplash/CC0 Public Domain

A new study published today in the The Lancet Global Health shows that less than half of people over 50 worldwide received the glasses or contact lenses they needed to correct refraction, the world’s most common vision problem. This work publishes the main report of the World Health Organization (WHO) on eye care.

Unfixed refractive error refers to eye conditions such as presbyopia, myopiafarsightedness and astigmatism which can be treated with simple interventions such as glasses or contact lenses. It is the leading cause of moderate to severe distance vision impairment worldwide, affecting at least 157 million people in 2020.

The new research was carried out by a team of sight loss experts led by Professor Rupert Bourne from Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) and Cambridge University Hospitals. The researchers analyzed data from 169 different studies from around the world to calculate the numbers in several defined regions for treatment coverage at distance and near refractive error.

The study found that with adequate treatment coverage, distance refractive errors—conditions such as nearsightedness, astigmatism, or moderate to severe farsightedness– up 19% since 2000, only 43% of all adults over the age of 50 receive simple treatments for these conditions, with 21% covering people with nearsightedness, known as presbyopia.

Coverage of distance refractive error treatment varied worldwide, from 79% in high-income regions, including countries such as the United States, to as low as 5.7% in sub-Saharan Africa.

The study also highlighted the gender gap in all identified regions of the world with lower female coverage.

The WHO is aiming to increase coverage of distance refractive error treatment by 40 percentage points by 2030, and Professor Bourne will present the study’s findings at United Nations (UN) headquarters in New York on Wednesday (12 October) at the launch of the first WHO ” Report on the achievement of the goals of effective coverage of ophthalmic care by 2030″.

Professor Bourne, Professor of Ophthalmology at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) and Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon at Cambridge University Hospitals, said: “There is increasing evidence that improving eye health and preventing deterioration of vision can directly contribute to the achievement of many other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), such as reducing poverty and improving labor productivity, education and equality. This was recognized by the United Nations, and our research was able to challenge the WHO to improve treatment outcomes worldwide. There are several social and cultural factors that influence the coverage of treatment for refractive error. Among them, the lower coverage among women is the most noticeable. We believe that differences in access to health care and use of services are likely the main causes of these gender inequalities. It is clear that if we are to achieve these WHO targets, the quality and quantity of refractive services worldwide must be improved.”

A global study estimates that 108 million people have a vision impairment that can be corrected

Additional information:
Effective coverage of refractive error in adults aged 50 years and older: estimates from population-based surveys in 61 countries. The Lancet Global Health (2022). DOI: 10.1016/S2214-109X(22)00433-8

Citation: Fewer than half of people over 50 worldwide received glasses or contact lenses needed to correct refractive error (2022, October 11) Retrieved October 11, 2022, from 2022-10-people-worldwide-glasses-contact-lenses.html

This document is subject to copyright. Except in good faith for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without written permission. The content is provided for informational purposes only.