Examining an Indian patient using a slit lamp

Did You Know…

…that In Many Cases, Blindness Is Preventable?

Good vision, or even the ability to see at all, cannot be taken for granted. Over 286 million people around the world have visual impairments, and 39 million of them are blind1. The number of cases of blindness is increasing each year by up to 2 million2. For the most part, blindness is an affliction of the elderly and the poor. Over 80 percent of all blind people are over the age of 503, most of them living in the Middle East and Africa. The most common cause of blindness (51 percent4 of all cases) is cataracts.

In Germany, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) tops the list of causes, followed by glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy (damage to the retina as a result of diabetes). In cases of AMD and glaucoma, both age-related illnesses, prevention plays an important role. While both of these illnesses are incurable, their onset can be delayed if they are diagnosed early. To this end, ZEISS provides high-resolution diagnostic systems.

Through prevention or relatively small interventions, blindness can very often be delayed or it may even be possible for eyesight to be restored. About 80 percent of cases of blindness and 85 percent of all visual impairments5 worldwide could be prevented in this way. Cataract surgery may take as little as ten minutes and costs roughly 30 to 130 euros6. Under ideal conditions, a specialist can carry out up to 2,000 cataract surgeries per year. The procedure involves replacing the patient’s cloudy lenses with artificial lens implants. In Germany, over 600,000 of these operations are carried out every year7.

In newly industrializing and developing countries, however, there are still large backlogs. Therefore, initiatives such as “VISION 2020 – The Right to Sight” and organizations like the Christoffel Blind Mission (CBM) and the PRO RETINA Foundation promote better treatment of eye diseases. As a member of VISION 2020, ZEISS supports the goal of enabling high-quality, affordable, and universal eye care for all population groups around the globe.

This mission to promote better eyesight also makes sense from an economic standpoint: in the western industrialized nations alone, the gross domestic product in 2010 was reduced due to visual impairments by an estimated US$ 40 billion8.

1 D. Pascolini, S.P.Mariotti, “Global estimates of visual impairment”, Br. J. Ophthalmol. 96, 614-618 (2012)
2 VISION 2020
3, 4 D. Pascolini, S.P. Mariotti, “Global estimates of visual impairment”, Br. J. Ophthalmol. 96, 614-618 (2012)
5 http://www.woche-des-sehens.de/presse/zahlen-und-fakten
6 http://www.woche-des-sehens.de/das-auge/blindheitsursachen
7 http://www.operation.de/grauer-star
8 K. Frick, A. Foster. “The Magnitude and Cost of Global Blindness: An Increasing Problem That Can Be Alleviated”, Am. J. Ophthalmol. 135, 471-476 (2003).


13 November 2012