CATARACT BLINDNESS IN INDIA – A PUBLIC HEALTH CRISIS
India has made huge strides from 2007 to 2019 in improving vision care according to Health Ministry with a reduction of the prevalence of blindness by 47% and a reduction in visual impairment by 51.9% . India has additionally reduced the number of blind from 12 million to 4.8 million during that same period. Despite this phenomenal success, cataracts continue to be a challenge.
In those 50 to 90 years of age, cataracts contribute to 66.2% of overall blindness, 80.7% of visual impairment and 70.2% moderate visual impairment. Additional causes of blindness include glaucoma at 5.50% and corneal opacity at 7.40%. Interestingly, 7.2% of blindness in India is due to complications from cataract surgery. Improvements in the quality of cataract surgery training quality should reduce this last number.
Today, there are 116 million Indian citizens aged 60 years or older. 15.42% currently suffer from visual disabilities. By 2050 the number of Indian senior citizens will increase to 330 million. Without planned, systematic intervention for quality cataract surgery care, India could be headed for a vision-related health crisis of epidemic proportions.
CAUSES OF BLINDNESS IN INDIA
CATARACT CARE PROGRAM IN INDIA
India has set itself apart as a role model by successfully raising its Cataract Surgical Rate or CSR, the number of cataract operations performed per million people per year from just over 700 in 1981 to nearly 6,000 in 2012. The current figure in 2019 stands close to 8,000, the estimated requirement for eliminating cataract blindness in India. Still, there are a few hurdles to overcome before cataract blindness can be eliminated. These include:
- Lack of awareness about the availability of treatment.
- Limited access to treatment facilities.
- The prohibitive cost of treatment for financially disadvantaged patients.
- A wide variance in CSR from state to state revealing the need to set up cataract treatment facilities specific areas.
- A massive shortage of trained cataract surgeons.
CATARACT SURGICAL COVERAGE BY AREA IN INDIA
To eliminate blindness in India due to cataract a CSR of 8,000 to 8,700 is required. The graph below shows current CSRs by state.
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