The leading causes of blindness in the world
This pie chart shows the main causes of blindness in the world. Cataract is the leading cause of blindness in the world, followed by refractive errors. In addition, there are many other eye conditions that can affect people’s vision. Below you will find information about the most common eye diseases.
Glaucoma (high eye pressure)
Glaucoma is sometimes (incorrectly) referred to as “green cataract”, but has nothing to do with cataracts. Glaucoma is an increased pressure in the eye, which kills off the optic nerves. Normally, a balance of moisture is generated internally in the eye and then discharged, ensuring the correct eye pressure. However, if the discharge of this fluid is obstructed, the pressure increases. The dead or damaged optic nerves cannot be repaired, leaving gaps in the visual field. Laser treatment, eye drops and tablets can stabilise the situation.
Cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye that usually occurs in elderly people. Symptoms of cataracts are double or blurred vision, sensitivity to light, trouble seeing at night, difficulty distinguishing colours, and varying visual acuity. If not treated, cataracts lead to blindness. Cataract surgery is the only solution and means that the clouded lens is replaced by an artificial lens.
Video Cataract surgery
A detached retina occurs most frequently in older people. The ageing process leads to a gradual change in the composition of the vitreous gel located between the lens of the eye and the retina. This may cause the retina to separate from the underlying tissue. Sometimes a haemorrage can occur in the vitreous fluid or tears in the retina, allowing moisture to seep into the retina, causing it to detach. Symptoms include extreme nearsightedness, seeing dark eye floaters and flashes of light. In some cases people have shadows or blind spots in their field of vision. If retinal detachment is not treated, it can lead to visual impairment or blindness. It can often be repaired with laser treatment or retinal surgery.
Diabetic retinopathy (DRP)
Diabetic retinopathy is an abnormality of the retina which occurs in patients with diabetes mellitus. It often begins with small changes in blood vessels (micro-aneurysms) and/or small haemorrhages in the retina. In the initial stages of this disorder the patient has no symptoms. The fluctuating sugar levels in both blood and the eye lens cause variations in visual acuity, so it takes time before the patient notices the abnormality. That is why it is so important that patients with diabetes are screened regularly. When this disorder is not detected early on, it can lead to blindness. The treatment may consist of a laser treatment, injections or vitreous surgery.
Keratoconus is an increasing thinning of the cornea. The cornea does not have a fine spherical shape, but protrudes forward in a cone-like shape. The cone-shaped protrusion almost always occurs in both eyes. Vision becomes progressively blurred because the light no longer falls directly on the retina. Also patients can become sensitive to light. In the beginning stage of keratoconus, visual sharpness can be improved with glasses or soft contact lenses. As the change in shape increases, glasses and/or soft contact lenses longer suffice to correct the cone shape. The solution then lies in hard contact lenses.
Macular degeneration (MD)
Macular degeneration is the deterioration of the macula, the central part of the retina that controls visual acuity. This disorder usually occurs later in life. The patient sees a blurry dark spot in the middle of his field of vision. Central vision gradually deteriorates over time. Sometimes, distortion is the first thing the patient notices. Lines are not straight, but appear crooked or wavy. There are several treatments that can slow down the process, such as injections, surgery or dietary supplements.
Chalazion (nodule on the eyelid)
Chalazion, a nodule on the upper or lower eyelid, is the result of an obstruction of a sebaceous gland. A chalazion can spontaneously disappear. A chalazion in its early stages can be treated with warm compresses and massage. A possible subsequent infection can be treated with antibiotics or anti-inflammatory eye drops. Persistent chalazia may be removed through a small incision under local anaesthetic.
Cataract complications (posterior capsular opacification)
After a successful cataract operation, clouding of the eye lens may occur. The cloudy vision is caused by a thickening of the back of the lens capsule. A short laser treatment will solve this problem.
The most common eye problems in children.
Amblyopia (lazy eye)
A lazy eye occurs during early childhood, and is the result of a retarded development of one of the two eyes. It is important that this abnormality is diagnosed quickly, so that it can be effectively treated. Treatment is performed by an orthoptist and usually consists of masking the good eye to encouraging the lazy eye to better develop.
Cataracts in children
Cataracts can also occur in children. The cause of this form of cataract cannot be attributed to ageing of the lens, but can be hereditary or acquired. Acquired cataracts can be caused by a mother falling ill during pregnancy (eg. rubella). Here too, cataract surgery is necessary.
Strabismus (crossed eyes)
Strabismus means that both eyes do not look in the same direction. There are different types of strabismus. The eye has six muscles. When there is a good balance between all the eye muscles, the eyes are aligned. Strabismus upsets this balance. Factors that can promote the development of strabismus include genetic factors, congenital strabismus, incorrect glasses, a result of (infectious) diseases, a problem with eye movement, emotional trauma or an accident. In addition, there is a connection between strabismus and farsightedness. If the strabismus is not corrected with glasses and/or exercises, an operation may be required. Patient Stories.
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The Eye Care Foundation helps prevent and cure avoidable blindness and visual impairment in developing countries. Worldwide there are 285 million people with visual impairments, of which 39 million people are blind and 246 million are visually impaired. A stunning 90% of people with visual disabilities live in developing countries. In developing countries blindness leads to major economic and social problems. Blind people can no longer work normally and are dependent on family members and friends. Eighty percent of blindness is avoidable or can be easily cured: for example, with cataract surgery or a good pair of glasses. It may be a simple solution, but without your financial help as a donor, it is impossible for us to achieve.