Newswise — Baltimore, Md. — For the first time, information about worldwide blindness and vision impairment is being projected onto NASA’s room-sized, global display system during the Annual Meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (May 7 – 11 at the Baltimore Convention Center).

Entitled “World Vision on a Sphere,” the 8-ft high globe, originally created by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, shows that the percentage of the global population suffering from blindness and vision impairment has decreased by 35% over the past 25 years around the world, thanks to the efforts of researchers, doctors and public health officials to combat the effects of blinding conditions such as cataracts.  

Attendees at the ARVO Annual Meeting can see these datasets projected onto the giant globe as a “heat map” showing blindness hot spots and how they have changed over time. 

But the drop is due in part to an increase in population over the 25 years that researchers have been collecting data. Because of population growth, and the fact that people are living longer, researchers expect a substantial increase in the number of people suffering from vision problems over the next five years.

The data shows that while the number of people who are blind and vision impaired increased from 30.5 million in 1990 to 36 million in 2015, the percentage of blindness and vision impairment actually fell during that period from .75% of the world’s population to .48%. The number is expected to increase to 38.5 million by 2020.

The data come from the Global Vision Database, a project of the Vision Loss Expert Group, an international collaboration of 100 ophthalmic epidemiologists from around the world, who prepare estimates of world blindness and vision impairment

Working with the World Health Organization (WHO), the group models the change in cause-specific prevalence of vision loss over time, reporting the reduction in age-standardized blindness prevalence over more than two decades, in all regions of the world.

Other trends: More females than males are vision-impaired (55% of those affected) and the largest number of blind — nearly 60% — live in Asia. Economically better-off countries see less incidence of vision impairment.

According to the researchers, these observations, plus a large contribution of uncorrected presbyopia (farsightedness), highlight the need to scale up efforts to alleviate blindness globally. 

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The Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) is the largest eye and vision research organization in the world. Members include nearly 12,000 eye and vision researchers from over 75 countries. ARVO advances research worldwide into understanding the visual system and preventing, treating and curing its disorders. See

Sponsors for World Vision on a Sphere:


Thea Corporate Foundation

Brien Holden Vision Institute

Vision & Eye Research Unit, Anglia Ruskin University

Made possible by the ARVO Foundation for Eye Research.



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