World Sight Day

by Federico Bartolomei

Low vision and blindness, an emergence to keep an eye on.

On October 12, 2006,Foto - Visita oculistica; foto concessa da: AMOA-Associazione Medici Oculisti per l’AfricaWorld Sight Day was celebrated in Italy under the auspices of the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, Italian division, in collaboration with Christian Blind Mission International of Italy.
The following numbers support the scope of the problem: there are in Italy nearly 350,000 blind people and more than one million and a half people living with low vision, this latter group growing rapidly because of the increase average of life expectancy; little more than 30% of children are evaluated at birth; and almost 30% of students in elementary schools have not undergone exams with an eye specialist. As far as adults are concerned, nearly one million people live with glaucoma and half of them are not aware of it; it is estimated that almost 5 to 10% of the population over 75 years of age are affected by age-related macular degeneration. The World Health Organization raises the alarm by declaring that there are in the world 37 million blind persons and 124 million others living with low vision. Ninety percent of blind people live in the poorest areas of the planet; in 75% of cases, blindness can be avoided through treatment and with preventive measures. The most common pathologies are: cataract which affects 20 million persons; trachoma which affects 146 million people; onchocerciasis, an infectious disease which has an impact on the life of 17 million people; xerophtalmia which affects each year 350,000 children, while 4 million and a half people are blind because of glaucoma.Foto - Bambina ipovedente che legge dal video ingranditore  These numbers show the dramatic impact of the phenomenon which could be curbed with simple prevention measures, since the greater part of visual pathologies are curable and preventable with well-timed treatments.
Epidemiological studies lead in the city of Bologna at the Istituto Cavazza have brought to the fore a high degree of problems in various sectors of the population:Foto - Primo piano bambinain 2002, the prevention campaign "Light Eyes", which involved the entire school population of the city of Bologna, highlighted that 17.2% of children presented abnormal sight in various degrees which was not known about.
In 2005, with the sight prevention program "Grey Eyes", a sample of older adults aged in average 70.9 years were evaluated: 8.5% of the population which underwent exams expressed that they had never had an appointment with an eye specialist while in 23% of cases, the glasses used did not correspond to the actual optical needs of the users.
Alarming results were obtained in the prevention campaign "Sport Eyes" in 2006 which involved Bolognese sportspersons aged on average 27 years: in nearly 22% of cases during the exams, the subjects did not reach the threshold of 10/10 in both eyes and 18.37% of interviewed persons have declared that they had not seen an eye specialist to undergo a complete set of exams in more than 12 years.