Global estimates on the number of people blind or visually impaired by Uncorrected Refractive Error: a meta-analysis from 2000 to 2020

Eye (Lond). 2024 Jul 4. doi: 10.1038/s41433-024-03106-0. Online ahead of print.


Background: Uncorrected refractive error (URE) is a readily treatable cause of visual impairment (VI). This study provides updated estimates of global and regional vision loss due to URE, presenting temporal change for VISION 2020 METHODS: Data from population-based eye disease surveys from 1980-2018 were collected. Hierarchical models estimated prevalence (95% uncertainty intervals [UI]) of blindness (presenting visual acuity (VA) < 3/60) and moderate-to-severe vision impairment (MSVI; 3/60 ≤ presenting VA < 6/18) caused by URE, stratified by age, sex, region, and year. Near VI prevalence from uncorrected presbyopia was defined as presenting near VA < N6/N8 at 40 cm when best-corrected distance (VA ≥ 6/12).

Results: In 2020, 3.7 million people (95%UI 3.10-4.29) were blind and 157 million (140-176) had MSVI due to URE, a 21.8% increase in blindness and 72.0% increase in MSVI since 2000. Age-standardised prevalence of URE blindness and MSVI decreased by 30.5% (30.7-30.3) and 2.4% (2.6-2.2) respectively during this time. In 2020, South Asia GBD super-region had the highest 50+ years age-standardised URE blindness (0.33% (0.26-0.40%)) and MSVI (10.3% (8.82-12.10%)) rates. The age-standardized ratio of women to men for URE blindness was 1.05:1.00 in 2020 and 1.03:1.00 in 2000. An estimated 419 million (295-562) people 50+ had near VI from uncorrected presbyopia, a +75.3% (74.6-76.0) increase from 2000 CONCLUSIONS: The number of cases of VI from URE substantively grew, even as age-standardised prevalence fell, since 2000, with a continued disproportionate burden by region and sex. Global population ageing will increase this burden, highlighting urgent need for novel approaches to refractive service delivery.