Near vision loss cases in India surge to 138 million

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NEW DELHI: Increased life expectancy and a high diabetes burden has increased the number of Indians with eyesight issues. Cases of near vision loss have more than doubled in the country — from 57.7 million in 1990 to 137.6 million in 2020, according to new data provided by two international bodies.
Near vision loss means inability to focus on nearby objects — it’s also called

presbyopia

— and sets in from the mid-40s. In a new data analysis which took six to seven years to compile, the Vision Loss Expert Group (VLEG) and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) found that there were 507 million cases of near vision loss in the world, with 137.6 million of them in India.
The data also revealed that cases of moderate and severe visual impairment (MSVI) have almost doubled from 40.6 million in 1990 to 79 million in 2020 in India. Moderate and severe vision loss is when visual acuity is less than 6/18 to 3/60 (if a patient has a vision of 3/60, it means she is able to see from three feet what a person with perfect vision can see from 60 feet). Blindness is when visual acuity is less than 3/60.
A leading cause of MSVI is diabetes, said experts. In 2016, India had 65 million diabetics, according to a

Lancet

paper. The latest IAPB survey found that about 1 in 6 diabetics in India suffers from retinopathy. “Untreated visual impairment due to

diabetic retinopathy

, cataract, glaucoma and certain corneal conditions can lead to blindness. These factors account for about 65% of all MSVI cases in India,” said Dr

Vinay Nangia

, ophthalmologist and lead for the Vision Loss Expert Group, South Asia.
Another factor behind rise in vision problems is increased life expectancy of Indians, experts said. A recent paper in Lancet had found that India’s life expectancy had increased from 59 years in 1990 to 70 years in 2019.
The new survey found that 78% of blind people were above the age of 50 years. With a blind population of 9.2 million, India is still home to the world’s largest number of blind people followed by China at 8.9 million people.

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