Factors associated with decreased vision: is it just a visual impairment?

Many causes of visual impairment can be prevented or treated. With global population aging, the need for eye health services has increased exponentially.

Recent studies unfortunately reveal that the gross global prevalence of preventable visual impairment and blindness in adults aged 50 and over has not changed between 2010 and 2019.

Results have revealed that the leading global causes of blindness in people aged 50 and over in 2020 which occupy the top places are cataract, glaucoma, uncorrected refractive error, age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy.

In addition to reducing educational and economic opportunities, blindness and visual impairment have been associated with a lower quality of life, lower longevity and greater morbidity. Identifying factors that link problems related to vision with other diseases and premature death can help prevent and improve the well-being of people with visual impairment.

With this objective in mind, the European Health Interview Survey (EHIS 2) was developed to describe the prevalence of self-reported vision problems in European countries and to identify related demographic and socioeconomic factors, health determinants and health access problems. The survey was carried out in the 28 member states of the European Union, also in Iceland and Norway, and included 311,386 participants.

Among other factors, depression and social isolation were associated with vision problems. Also, in the older population aged 65 and over, functional daily living limitations were associated with visual impairment. Likewise, individuals who self-rated their health as “poor” reported chronic illnesses and daily smoking were also associated with an increase in problems related to vision.

On the other hand, with regards to sociodemographic factors, the study found that lower income, lower education and social isolation are associated with a higher rate of problems related to vision.

Poor vision contributes to preventing the development of children’s full potential, limiting productivity in adults and loss of autonomy in the elderly. It also leads to isolation, a feeling of insecurity and powerlessness and a degradation of self-confidence. As such, it contributes to depressive behaviour in a very marked way.

The association between smoking and problems related to vision had been previously described in other studies, and may be explained by the increased risk of developing cataracts and macular degeneration.

These results emphasise the need for a comprehensive proximity approach for the community and for an effective integrated healthcare service. Eye health must be ensured from birth and throughout life.

Article submitted by HPA Group