Blindness is a serious issue impacting millions of people across the globe. Yet, many need to be aware of this condition's facts and statistics.
Expand your understanding of blindness and debunk common myths in this comprehensive article. Learn about prevalence, causes, and prevention methods, and recognize falsehoods associated with vision loss.
The following statistics show the prevalence of vision impairment:
- Over 2.2 billion people worldwide suffer from some form of vision impairment, with roughly half (at least 1 billion) of these cases being preventable or untreated.1 This group encompasses people with moderate or severe distance vision impairment or blindness due to refractive error (88.4 million).
- Over 12 million Americans aged 40+ have vision impairment, with 1 million classified as legally blind.2
- More than 4 million Americans aged 40+ faced uncorrectable vision issues in 2012, including 1 million who are blind. This number can double by 2050 due to the rise in chronic diseases, diabetes, and an aging population.2
- Approximately 3% of children under 18 experience blindness or a visual impairment, meaning they struggle to see even with contact lenses or corrective eyewear.2
- 90% of all diabetes-related blindness are avoidable.2
- Over 1.6 million Americans with vision impairment or blindness are below 40.3
- More than 350,000 people experiencing vision impairment or blindness reside in group facilities, including correctional centers and nursing homes.3
- 1 in 5 people over 85 have irreversible vision loss.3
- Permanent vision loss or blindness affects more females than males.3
- The primary reasons for blindness in children under 18 are retinopathy of prematurity (31.3%), nystagmus (8.1%), and cataract (6.7%).4
- While vision loss may impact anyone at any age, it's more prevalent among those over 50 due to age-related macular degeneration.1
Vision Impairment and Blindness Definition
Visual impairment is a reduction in vision that glasses or standard means can't correct. On the other hand, total blindness is a condition in which a person cannot see. Both can occur due to a genetic condition, injury, or disease.
Blindness refers to the complete absence of vision, even the ability to detect light. It’s impossible to rectify this condition with:
- Surgical procedures
- Medical treatments
- Contact lenses
- Eye drops
The five types of blindness include:
While color blindness may not fit the traditional definition, it’s an intriguing condition known as color deficiency. Affecting the perception of colors, you can inherit or acquire this condition due to retinal or optic nerve damage.
If your vision is limited to black, white, and shades of gray, you may be experiencing achromatopsia.
The International Classification of Diseases established two distinct categories for vision impairment: distance and near-presenting vision impairment.1 This clear classification system facilitates more accurate diagnosis and treatment for patients.
Distance vision impairment:
- Mild. Visual acuity less than 6/12 to 6/18
- Moderate. Visual acuity less than 6/18 to 6/60
- Severe. Visual acuity less than 6/60 to 3/60
- Blindness. Visual acuity less than 3/60
Near vision impairment:
- Near visual acuity less than N6 or M.08 at 40cm
10 Blindness Facts
Here are some facts and figures related to vision loss:5,6
1. Diverse Navigation Strategies
It's easy to pass by a blind person without realizing it. Less than 2% of visually impaired people use a white cane for navigation. The majority either rely on guide dogs or forgo assistance altogether.
2. Guide Dogs and Traffic
Guide dogs rely on audible cues to assist blind or visually impaired people crossing the street. Traffic lights pose a challenge, as the dog cannot detect the changing colors. Therefore, their handler must listen for traffic sounds to determine when it is safe to cross and signal the dog accordingly. If a vehicle approaches, the loyal canine will refuse to proceed, ensuring its handler's safety.
3. Enhanced Olfactory Perception
Blind people have a heightened ability to discriminate between different scents than those who possess sight. Although previous beliefs of heightened senses for blind people were incorrect, the lack of sight encourages a heightened focus on processing and storing olfactory information.
4. Not Just Darkness, but a Spectrum of Visual Perception
Being legally blind doesn't necessarily mean total darkness. Even with severe visual impairment, seeing colors, shapes, and varying degrees of light is still possible. About 85% of blind people can still perceive some visual information.
5. Relationship Dynamics in the Blind Community
About 65% of Americans with blindness are in committed relationships. Moreover, the divorce rates among this population are relatively low, at only 16.5%.
6. Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Disorder
Over 70% of totally blind people in the United States suffer from non-24-hour sleep-wake disorder. This condition disrupts their body's circadian rhythm, leading to trouble sleeping at night and excessive daytime drowsiness.
7. Preventable Blindness
About 80% of blindness worldwide is preventable or treatable. The key to maintaining healthy vision is scheduling regular health exams and taking immediate action when necessary. Unfortunately, these essential services are often out of reach.
8. The Correlation between Blindness and Schizophrenia
Schizophrenia isn’t a risk for those born blind. Extensive research has never recorded a single case of schizophrenia in this population. However, there's a potential risk for them to develop autism spectrum disorders.
9. Expressive Universality
Blind people demonstrate the innate nature of facial expressions. This indicates that people don't acquire the ability to smile or make other facial expressions through visual imitation but rather through genetic makeup.
10. Innate Emotional Display
People who are blind from birth exhibit facial expressions based on emotions. This suggests that environmental, social, or cultural factors don’t influence these gestures. Instead, they’re a fundamental feature of humankind’s biological makeup.
5 Blindness Myths
Unfortunately, many myths persist regarding vision loss. These are some of the most common and why they’re false:
Myth 1: Those With Color Blindness See the World in Black and White
Fact: People with color blindness can see some colors, just not all.7 The condition is caused by congenital or acquired faulty light-sensitive rods and cones in the retina, resulting in difficulties distinguishing between certain hues.
Myth 2: Blind People are Helpless
Fact: They’re capable of achieving great things in their unique way. They can live autonomously and engage in activities typically associated with those who have full sight, such as:
- Pursuing a fulfilling career
- Playing sports
- Building a family
- Exploring different parts of the world
Vision-loss rehabilitation and specialized training provide them with the tools and techniques to achieve their desired way of life.
Myth 3: Blind People Don’t Dream
Fact: Blind people experience vivid dreams like everyone else. Those born sighted may even dream in color or recall visual details. However, those blind from birth tend to experience dreamscapes that their other senses shape. For instance, they’ll often include tactile sensations, sounds, and smells.
Myth 4: Blindness is a Disease
Fact: Vision loss isn't a disease but a result of certain illnesses, conditions, or injuries. It may be permanent or temporary and can affect one eye or both.
Myth 5: You Must be Born Blind to Be Legally Blind
Fact: Vision impairment can result from various causes, including chronic illness, trauma, or genetics. Some may become legally blind as children or adults due to degenerative eye diseases like glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, or retinitis pigmentosa.
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