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SOURCE Brien Holden Vision Institute
More than 25 million people in North America suffer from vision impairment due to uncorrected refractive error
NEW YORK, Oct. 10, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- We live in a world of senses – touch, taste, hearing, smell and sight. And while blindness is one of the most feared disabilities, most people take their sight for granted – of course – until they are at risk of losing it. Today marks World Sight Day, an annual day to focus global attention on blindness and vision impairment. In support of this effort, Brien Holden Vision Institute releases A Vision for All to See: A report on global eye health and vision care, aimed to raise awareness of the impending crisis of myopia and presbyopia and to create a call to action that prioritizes this growing issue.
In North America, more than 25 million people suffer from vision impairment due to uncorrected distance and near refractive error – the leading and most easily avoidable cause of vision loss. Two of the most rapidly increasing refractive error conditions are myopia (near sightedness or when vision is poor at a distance and better up close) and presbyopia (difficulty for the aging eye to focus up close without additional optical assistance).
In the past 30 years, the number of people impacted by myopia in the U.S. among those aged 12 to 54 years has nearly doubled, growing from 25 percent in the early 1970s to 42 percent today (34 million people). As a result of the world's aging population and increased life expectancy, presbyopia is also on the rise. In 2010, the condition affected more than 143 million people in the U.S. and is estimated to grow to 1.5 billion worldwide by 2050.
"Vision impairment is one of the world's major causes of loss of wellbeing – ranking just below HIV/AIDS. If left untreated, conditions like myopia and presbyopia can have an immense impact on people's visual welfare and social well-being, and ultimately, quality of life," said Professor Brien Holden, world leader in vision science and founder of the Brien Holden Vision Institute. "In addition to the human costs, global lost productivity resulting from vision impairment, specifically uncorrected refractive error, is estimated at US $202 billion."
For most, an eye test and a pair of glasses can help correct the immediate problem of myopia, however they don't treat the underlying cause – elongation of the eye. As someone with myopia ages, their eye continues to elongate, increasing their risk of other eye conditions including retinal damage, detachment, glaucoma and cataract.
"It is critical that we implement the technology we are now developing for slowing the progress of myopia with specially designed Myopia Control contact lenses and spectacles, and lifestyle changes for children. This will significantly reduce the morbidity of high myopia, with Myopic Macular Degeneration becoming the major cause of blindness in Asia, Myopia Control strategies will save the sight of tens, even hundreds of millions of people in the future," said Professor Holden.
Unfortunately, not everyone in the U.S. has access to this type of eye care, and there are vast disparities by race, education and income. Studies show that from 1999 to 2008, people with less education and lower income were both less likely to visit an optometrist and less able to afford glasses when needed. The same study also found that more than 50% of Medicare bene?ciaries had not visited an eye care provider or received an annual eye test.
"So often we don't think of vision and eye care as being an issue in the U.S., but that's not the case," said Dr. Joycelyn Elders, former Surgeon General of the U.S. "Growing up I witnessed first-hand the devastating impact that impaired vision can have on a person's self-esteem, education, employment opportunities and status within the community – which is why World Sight Day is an excellent time to remind our friends and family to get their eyes tested."
Research and subsequent action are essential to address the underlying causes of these growing eye conditions and gaps in access to care. Brien Holden Vision Institute is continuously researching and developing breakthrough technologies and products that improve vision – in the near- and long-term. Recognizing that these advancements are only helpful if utilized, the Institute has also trained almost 50,000 eye care personnel around the world to administer eye tests and prescribe glasses.
"We know that a simple eye test is the first step to maintaining good eye health, and I would encourage everyone to value their vision, and make an appointment to visit their local eye care professional," said Professor Holden.
To learn more about the impact of avoidable blindness worldwide, visit www.brienholdenvision.org to view A Vision for All to See: A report on global eye health and vision care.
ABOUT THE REPORT ON GLOBAL EYE HEALTH AND VISION CARE
Taking care of your eyes is just as important as taking care of the rest of your body. We only have one pair of eyes and protecting our sight is vital to our families, communities and society in general. The aim of A Vision for All to See: A report on global eye health and vision care is 1) to raise awareness of the impending crisis of myopia and presbyopia and the potential human and economic impact worldwide if left untreated and 2) create a call to action that prioritizes the issue and creates a sense of urgency for the development and implementation of solutions.
ABOUT BRIEN HOLDEN VISION INSTITUTE
The Brien Holden Vision Institute is a unique self-funding global research, education, licensing and public health organisation dedicated to providing affordable, quality vision and eye health solutions for everyone, everywhere.
We focus on innovation in refractive error correction, the most common eye problem and its seemingly simple solution. With the support of our industry partners, we research and develop breakthrough technologies and products that improve vision. The revenues from this work then allow us to invest in sustainable eye care programs around the world – helping to eliminate vision impairment and avoidable blindness, thereby reducing poverty and suffering.
Through the combination of innovative research with education and service infrastructure, Brien Holden Vision Institute has worked in 54 countries, provided optometric services and glasses to over 2.5 million people at its 429 vision centers and eye care sites, and trained almost 50,000 eye care personnel around the world.
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