Prevention of Blindness and Eye Care

In Latin America and the Caribbean, cataract (opacification of the lens) is the single most important cause of blindness; cataract surgery has been shown to be one of the most cost effective interventions of all health care interventions. Cataract and uncorrected refractive error combined contributed to 55% of blindness and 77% of vision impairment in adults aged 50 years and older in the Region. Most cataracts are age-related and so cannot be prevented, but cataract surgery with the insertion of an intraocular lens (IOL) is highly effective, giving almost immediate visual rehabilitation.

In adults, cataract surgery is associated with improvements in quality of life and household economic circumstances, indicative of positive transitions out of poverty. Reducing disability adjusted life years (DALYs) from vision impairment is achievable by delivery of eyeglasses for refractive errors and curative surgery for cataracts.

Since 1990, the prevalence of blindness has been reduced in the region. In 2015, 0.4% of the population in the Region of the Americas was found to suffer from blindness. Additionally, 2.1% of the population had severe or moderate visual impairment. In people over 50 years of age, 1.7% was blind and 8.0% had severe or moderate visual impairment.

What still needs to be done?

  • Increase provision of cataract surgical services to underserved population in each country
  • Measure prevalence of cataract blindness, coverage of services and barriers in selected countries

Blindness and visual impairment is preventable in about 80 percent of people. It is almost four times more prevalent in poor and illiterate people living in marginalized and rural areas than in wealthy neighborhoods. To reduce blindness and visual impairment, it is necessary to increase the access to eye care services by strengthening the public services in the poorest areas in each country. Access to eye care can reduce visual impairment and refractive errors along the life course.

The PAHO Eye Care regional program has being generating population based epidemiologic data, and evidence on health systems and services inequities. PAHO support governments in the elaboration of norms, policies and guidelines in eye care and plans for the strengthening of the eye care systems. Since evidence demonstrated that blindness and severe visual impairment is clustered among the poor and rural people, PAHO provides technical cooperation and support on planning, strengthening, follow up and evaluation of the public eye care services to reduce inequities in services provision. The program also spearheads the topic of deafness prevention.

World Hearing Day 2018: Hear the Future

worldhearingday2018With the theme "Hear the future", World Hearing Day 2018 will draw attention to the anticipated increase in the number of people with hearing loss around the world in the coming decades. It will focus on preventive strategies to stem the rise and outline steps to ensure access to the necessary rehabilitation services and communication tools and products for people with hearing loss.

For more information about World Hearing Day 2018

Fact Sheets

Globally, chronic eye diseases are the main cause of vision loss. Uncorrected refractive errors and then un-operated cataract are the top two causes of vision impairment. Un-operated cataract remains the leading cause of blindness in low- and middle-income countries. Hearing loss may result from genetic causes, complications at birth, certain infectious diseases, chronic ear infections, the use of particular drugs, exposure to excessive noise, and ageing.