“Avoidable Blindness” Set to Increase in Future


New data published in the Lancet Global Health shows that decades of declining “avoidable blindness”—those with uncorrected refractive errors and cataract—is plateauing, and is projected to increase between 2015 and 2050.

The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB), an international alliance of eye care organisations, will be launching the “IAPB Vision Atlas” with the latest global data and evidence on blindness and vision impairment this World Sight Day (12 October 2017).

A new paper by the Vision Loss Expert Group (VLEG) published yesterday in the Lancet Global Health identifies the leading causes of Blindness and Moderate and Severe Vision Impairment (MSVI) in 2015. Of the 253 million people who are blind or MSVI, uncorrected refractive errors (123.8 million people) and cataract (65.2 million) are the main causes, followed by Age-related Macular Degeneration and Glaucoma.

VLEG’s latest prevalence data (released in a previous paper in August) shows progress between 1990 and 2015 resulted in some 90 million people being treated or prevented from becoming blind or moderate or severely vision impaired.

However, trends in an ageing and growing global population coupled with the increase in myopia and diabetic retinopathy are taking us into a new era of blindness and vision impairment—an era where existing efforts are at serious risk of beingoverwhelmed, potentially leading to a threefold increase in blindness by 2050. 

IAPB.jpg Taking this new data into consideration, a new section on the IAPB Vision Atlas looks at the possibility of achieving the World Health Organization’s Global Action Plan target of 25% reduction in avoidable vision impairment (blindness and MSVI combined) by 2019 (based on 2010 figures). Using the new VLEG data for both 2010 and their projection for 2020, the Atlas projects a 5.6% increase in the prevalence of avoidable vision impairment. As noted earlier, the VLEG projections for the longer term predict further dramatic increases in numbers of people affected. 

Rupert Bourne, Professor of Ophthalmology at the Anglia Ruskin University, who coordinates the VLEG of 100 collaborating ophthalmic epidemiologists, said “we are very supportive of the Vision Atlas initiative by the IAPB-this means the results of this scientific effort are now of practical value to everyone in supporting efforts to highlight, prevent, treat or rehabilitate those with vision loss in all countries”.

“The disturbing increase in numbers of people with vision loss worldwide show that our efforts at preventing vision loss are being eroded by an increasing and ageing global population” notes Peter Ackland, CEO, IAPB. “We believe the IAPB Vision Atlas will be an effective tool in understanding these trends and advocating for an increased commitment to eye health. The Atlas will help make vision count”.

The IAPB Vision Atlas brings all this data and evidence on blindness prevention to one place. It presents the complex science and data through maps and infographics, and provides context with expert commentary. The IAPB Vision Atlas will host prevalence and causes data by country or region, from 1990 to 2015, and will also include projections to 2020 and 2050.  It will also include success indicators (Cataract Surgical Coverage, number of eye health personnel and more) towards achieving the WHO Global Action Plan.

The IAPB Vision Atlas will help eye care organisations, ministries of health, policy makers and eye health advocates compare vision impairment trends over time and in different parts of the world. The Atlas will also help track countries making progress, and those that are falling behind. Armed with the Vision Atlas, governments across the world can be convinced that we need to step up efforts to improve eye care and access to eye care. Together, let’s make vision count.

The paper can be accessed at this link:

Key facts

·   36 million people who are blind

·   217 million people with moderate or severe distance vision impairment

·   Of those with blindness and MSVI, 124million people have uncorrected refractive errors and 65 million have       cataract—more than 75% of all blindness and MSVI is avoidable

·   253 million people blind or vision impaired (in 2015)

·   1.1 billion people with near-vision impairment

·   The prevalence of blindness and vision impairment combined has dropped from 4.58% in 1990 to 3.37% in         2015.

·   89% of vision impaired people live in low and middle-income countries

·   55% of moderate or severely vision impaired people are women

The updated IAPB Vision Atlas can be found here:


Notes to Editors:

About IAPB

The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) is the coordinating membership organisation leading international efforts in blindness prevention activities. IAPB’s mission is to eliminate the main causes of avoidable blindness and visual impairment by bringing together governments and non-governmental agencies to facilitate the planning, development and implementation of sustainable national eye care programmes. For more information, please visit:

About IAPB Vision Atlas

The IAPB Vision Atlas website is a compilation of the latest data and evidence on avoidable blindness or sight loss – from eye conditions many of which can be easily treated or prevented and for which cost-effective solutions are readily available. For more information, please visit:

Media Contacts

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 B VTejah; Communications Manager, IAPB;