An estimated half a billion people in the world suffer near vision impairment which greatly impacts quality of life because they cannot access reading glasses, according to a bulletin released by Brien Holden Vision Institute (BHVI). The report was the last to be worked on by the late Professor Brien Holden before his death on 27 July 2015.
Although impaired near vision is often perceived to be less problematic than impaired distance vision, recent studies indicate the contrary. For instance, according to studies cited by BHVI, people in rural Africa with near vision impairment may have difficulty completing essential activities including sorting grains, weeding, cooking, sewing and caring for children.
The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) international statistical classification of diseases (ICD) and related health problems recognises people who cannot access spectacles for poor long distance vision as sufferers of vision impairment but does not ascribe the same recognition to those who suffer near vision impairment.
“Because it is so common, it has perhaps been overlooked as a cause of disability,” said co-author on the paper, Dr. Nina Tahhan of the Brien Holden Vision Institute. “When you don’t have glasses, you are functionally disabled. Whether vision impairment is at close range or distance, the impact on quality of life is the same.”
Professor Kovin Naidoo, Acting CEO of the Brien Holden Vision Institute said the institute’s goal is “to create a world where everyone, everywhere has access to vision correction. Influencing global policy is an important avenue for this. Formal recognition of near vision impairment in the ICD is a critical first step”.
Uncorrected presbyopia is the most common cause of visual impairment. WHO has recommended the measurement of near vision in population-based surveys. BHVI said formal inclusion of near vision impairment in the ICD is an overdue and crucial step in dealing effectively with this common but easily mitigated disability.
Towards better estimates of uncorrected presbyopia. Brien A Holden, Nina Tahhan, Monica Jong, David A Wilson, Timothy R Fricke, Rupert Bourne & Serge Resnikoff.