Purpose: To determine the annual incidence of visual impairment in a Japanese population during a 10-year period.
Methods: We examined the physical disability certificates issued yearly between 2004 and 2013 in Mie prefecture, Japan. During this period 2468 visually impaired people were registered under the newly defined Act on Welfare of the Physically Disabled Persons' criteria. The age, sex distribution, and causes of visual impairment were determined from the certificates.
Results: The major causes of visual impairment during the ten-year period were glaucoma (23.3%), diabetic retinopathy (17.3%), retinitis pigmentosa (12.2%), macular degeneration (9.0%), chorioretinal degeneration or high myopia (7.4%), optic atrophy (5.8%), stroke or brain tumor (5.4%) and cataracts (3.7%). The incidence of glaucoma was significantly higher throughout the period (2004-2013), and that of diabetic retinopathy was lower between 2007 and 2013. The incidence of retinitis pigmentosa did not change significantly during the 10-year period. The incidence of macular degeneration tended to increase between 2004 and 2007, but it decreased significantly between 2007 and 2013.
Conclusions: The results indicate that in Japan, the rates of the major causes of visual impairment altered in the most recent 10-year period reflecting the recent changes in the social background and advances in ocular and systemic treatment.
Keywords: Diabetic retinopathy; Epidemiology; Glaucoma; Japanese population; Visual impairment.