Blindness Rates Decrease in Developed Countries While Macular Degeneration Rates Increase

Despite an aging population, a study conducted of 50 developed countries has revealed blindness has plummeted by 50 percent and moderate to severe blindness has been reduced by 38 percent from 1990 to 2010 (USA Today). The rates are somewhat lower across the United States and Canada because they started out with significantly lower rates compared to international standards.


The major reason for the decline in blindness and serious vision impairment can be attributed to the availability of cataract surgery. At one time the leading cause of blindness, cataracts have been replaced by macular degeneration in wealthier countries. Generally found in older adults, macular degeneration causes central vision loss due to damage to the retina and is harder to treat.

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Macular degeneration has replaced cataracts as the leading cause of blindness in developed countries. This optomap® image displays age related macular degeneration.

Earlier diagnosis, advanced technology and access to treatment are also responsible for these incredible declines in blindness and severe vision loss. Compiled from 243 studies out of 15,000 worldwide that were suitable (Business Insider), the statistics speak for themselves:

  • — In the 50 countries studied, the prevalence of blindness decreased from 0.2 percent to 0.1 percent of the population. The USA and Canada remained steady at 0.1 percent, while the global rate of blindness is at 0.5 percent.
  • — Moderate to severe visual impairment fell from 0.8 percent in the USA and Canada to 0.6 percent. In the 50 countries studied, rates of severe visual impairment fell from 1.6 percent to 1 percent, while globally the rate is 2.9 percent.
  • — For those over 50, the rate of blindness in the United States and Canada fell from 0.5 percent to 0.3 percent, while severe visual impairment dropped from 3 percent to 2.2 percent.

The study also shows that women are more likely to be affected by blindness and severe visual impairment than men, and only 9 percent of women are cognizant of this fact. The increased odds are attributed to the fact that women have a higher life expectancy than men and are more likely to develop macular degeneration.


In order to mitigate the cost of blindness and severe visual impairment, early detection and treatment are paramount. With our advanced ultra-widefield retinal imaging technology, Optos is committed to aiding practitioners in detecting many vision-threatening conditions, often before patients notice a change in their vision. We invite you to visit our website, or contact us for more information.