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Prevention of Blindness and Eye Care

Data from prevalence surveys conducted by the Pan American Health Organization in nine (9) countries revealed that the marginal and poor populations are who have a higher prevalence of blindness and visual disability. The burden of visual impairment in Latin America and the Caribbean is not distributed uniformly; in many countries it is estimated that for every 1 million population 5,000 are blind, and 20,000 are visually impaired, at least two thirds are attributable to treatable conditions such as cataract, refractive errors, diabetic retinopathy, childhood blindness, glaucoma, onchocerciasis and trachoma.

  • Introduction
  • Cataract
  • Uncorrected refractive errors in school children
  • Blindness from diabetic retinopathy
  • Blindness in premature babies
  • Comprehensive low vision care

Introduction

Data from prevalence surveys conducted by the Pan American Health Organization in nine (9) countries revealed that the marginal and poor populations are who have a higher prevalence of blindness and visual disability. The burden of visual impairment in Latin America and the Caribbean is not distributed uniformly; in many countries it is estimated that for every 1 million population 5,000 are blind, and 20,000 are visually impaired, at least two thirds are attributable to treatable conditions such as cataract, refractive errors, diabetic retinopathy, childhood blindness, glaucoma, onchocerciasis and trachoma. In the last 5 years the access to the eye health services has been increased in the marginal urban areas and rural areas of many countries of the region with support of PAHO - WHO, Vision 2020, international NGOs, and bilateral cooperation. At the national level, it is necessary that the Ministries of Health develop national ocular health plans, implement programs and mobilize the necessary resources to strength the supply of eye care services especially in areas and population groups where do not exist.

 

 

Cataract

 

In Latin America and the Caribbean, cataract (opacification of the lens) is the single most important cause of blindness; cataract surgery has been shown to be one of the most cost effective interventions of all health care interventions. Most cataracts are age related and so cannot be prevented, but cataract surgery with insertion of an intraocular lens (IOL) is highly effective, giving almost immediate visual rehabilitation.

The prevalence of blindness in people aged 50 years and above varied from 2.3% to 3% in the national surveys in Venezuela and Paraguay; in the urban areas of Campinas, Brazil and Buenos Aires, Argentina it is of 1.4% and close to 4% in the rural areas of Peru and Guatemala. The proportion of blindness due to cataract in people aged 50 years and above varied in a range from 39% in the urban areas of Brazil and Argentina to about 65% in the rural areas of Peru and Guatemala. The national assessments revealed that close to 60% of blindness is due to cataract. The eye care services coverage for eyes with severe visual impairment is close to 80% in well developed urban areas and under 10% in the rural and remote areas.

What needs to be done?

      • Increase provision of cataract surgical services to underserved population in each country.
      • Measure prevalence of cataract blindness, coverage of services and barriers in selected countries.

 



 
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