The global state of cataract blindness

Curr Opin Ophthalmol. 2017 Jan;28(1):98-103. doi: 10.1097/ICU.0000000000000340.


Purpose of review: Cataracts are a significant cause of blindness and visual impairment worldwide. The present article reviews the literature and describes the current extent of cataracts globally, barriers to treatment, and recommendations for improving the treatment of cataracts.

Recent findings: Prevalence and absolute number of blind because of cataracts remain high, although rates are declining in many areas globally. The age-standardized prevalence of blindness in adults older than 50 remains highest in western sub-Saharan Africa, with a rate of 6.0%. The greatest declines in age-standardized blindness because of cataracts in adults older than 50 between 1990 and 2010 were in East Asia, tropical Latin America, and western Europe. Recent studies have largely found higher rates of cataracts in women than in men. A new simulator for training ophthalmologists in manual small-incision cataract surgery holds promise for the future.

Summary: The rates of cataract surgery are increasing and postoperative outcomes are improving worldwide, yet challenges to reducing the cataract burden further remain. Cost, an insufficient number of ophthalmologists, and low government funding remain significant barriers but investment in further eye care infrastructure and training of additional ophthalmologists would improve the current situation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Blindness / epidemiology*
  • Blindness / etiology
  • Blindness / rehabilitation
  • Cataract / complications
  • Cataract / epidemiology*
  • Cataract / rehabilitation
  • Cataract Extraction
  • Global Health
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Healthcare Disparities
  • Humans