We tend to take it for granted that we can see – and see well. However, over 286 million people around the world have visual impairments; 39 million of those are blind1. The number of blind people is increasing by up to 2 million2 each year. Blindness primarily affects the elderly and the poor. Over 80 percent of all blind people are over the age of 503, most of them live in the Middle East and Africa. The most common cause of blindness (in 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, which are age-related illnesses, prevention plays an important role. Both these illnesses are incurable. However, if diagnosed early, their onset can be slowed down. Carl Zeiss produces high-resolution diagnostic systems for this purpose.
In many cases, preventive measures or relatively small interventions can halt the onset of blindness or restore eyesight. About 80 percent of cases of blindness and 85 percent of all visual impairments5 worldwide can be prevented in this way. Cataract surgery may take only ten minutes and costs roughly between 30 and 130 euros6. Under ideal conditions, a specialist doctor can carry out up to 2,000 cataract surgeries per year. The procedure involves replacing the patient's cloudy lenses by artificial lens implants. In Germany, over 600,000 operations are carried out every year7.
In emerging and developing countries, however, there are large backlogs. Therefore, initiatives such as "VISION 2020 – The Right to Sight" and organizations like the Christian Blind Mission (CBM) and the PRO RETINA foundation promote the better treatment of eye diseases. As a member of VISION 2020, Carl Zeiss supports the goal of enabling high-quality, affordable and universal eye care for all peoples around the globe.
The mission of better eyesight also makes sense from an economic viewpoint: In 2010, visual impairments resulted in a decrease of gross domestic product by an estimated 40 billion US dollars8 in the Western industrialized countries alone.
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)
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)
November 14, 2012