Introduction to Eye Health

assults on the eyesTo most of us they seem like ordinary events – catching the sunrise, spying a butterfly, discovering a field of wildflowers, seeing a master artwork in a museum or looking at a loved one’s face. Yet, for the 285 million people around the world who are blind or vision impaired1, the full beauty of those images can only be imagined or remembered. For those individuals, a rainbow is seen under a cloudy haze, a grandchild can only be viewed with the center of the image blocked out, and a book can only be heard on tape. For many in this group, their view of the world is simply a black screen.

What makes that number so daunting is that 80 percent of all visual impairment cases are preventable. Many of these eye conditions, particularly those associated with age like macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts, could be prevented or improved with simple solutions like better nutrition.

What is visual impairment?

Vision impairment comes in many forms and guises. Defined as any sight loss that cannot be fully corrected without eyeglasses or contact lenses2, vision impairment touches every age and every part of the world. Although 90 percent of the visually impaired live in developing countries, the developed world is hardly immune to eye disease:3

  • In the European Union, 31,700 per million people are visually impaired (3000 per one million people of which are blind, and 28,700 per million people of which have low vision)4

  • In the United States, more than 6 million people are visually impaired5

While eyesight certainly worsens with age — 82 percent of people living with blindness are aged 50 and above — blindness doesn’t escape the young. It’s estimated that 1.4 million children around the world are blind.

What are common causes of vision impairment?

The biggest cause of all forms of vision impairment (43 percent) is “uncorrected refractive errors,” i.e., poor vision that could have been treated with eyeglasses or contacts.

Others are largely age-related, including cataracts (33 percent), glaucoma (2 percent) and AMD (1 percent). When blindness alone is taken into consideration, the top three causes are cataracts (51 percent), glaucoma (8 percent), and AMD (5 percent).

To learn more about what you can do to protect your eyes, click here.


1World Health Organization
2 National Health Service of England
3 Global Data on Vision Impairment 2010, World Health Organization
4 Global Data on Vision Impairment 2010, World Health Organization
5 National Institutes of Health, National Eye Institute