Seniors threatened by blindness

    CALGARY, Oct. 7 /CNW/ - The world's population is aging and, as the
number of older people grows, health issues like low vision and blindness
become acute. Here in Canada, eye care organizations have joined forces to
confront this growing health problem domestically and abroad.
    Individual efforts have saved millions from going blind. Coordinated
efforts, however, have the potential to eliminate avoidable blindness around
the world. "VISION 2020: The Right to Sight" is an international alliance of
eye care organizations. Blindness is increasing. Unless we act now, the number
of blind people will increase from 45 million to approx. 76 million by the
year 2020. VISION 2020 operates under the direction of the International
Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) and the World Health
Organization (WHO).
    Due to the growing threat of blindness among seniors, this issue has top
priority in 2008 for the IAPB, which has made it the focus of this year's
World Sight Day, observed Oct. 9. Major threats are age-related macular
degeneration, cataract, refractive error and glaucoma. Eye care organizations
operating in Canada (see list below) are also focused on this issue, knowing
that most vision problems can be prevented or treated.

    Facts include:
    -   75 per cent of the world's blindness is avoidable - it can be treated
        or prevented.
    -   80 per cent of the world's 45 million blind people are over 50 years
        of age.
    -   The risk of vision-impairing conditions such as cataract and macular
        degeneration increases exponentially with increasing age.
    -   Cataract is the leading cause of blindness in older people - yet it
        is curable by a simple, cost-effective operation.
    -   Glaucoma has blinded 4.5 million people worldwide
    -   Due to age-related macular degeneration, over 3 million people are
        without sight
    -   90 per cent of blind people live in the developing world, in low-
        income countries. As well, 71 per cent of the world's elderly people
        live in low-income countries, where they often face barriers to eye
        health care.
    -   8 million people worldwide are blind due to uncorrected refractive
        errors. A simple sight test and glasses could restore sight to most
        of these people.
    -   Vision impairment often contributes to injuries and mortality in
        older people.
    -   Timely intervention can delay the effects of age-related blinding

    World Sight Day is an international day of awareness, held annually on
the second Thursday of October to focus attention on the global issue of
avoidable blindness and visual impairment. The theme of World Sight Day 2008
is the aging eye: Eyes on the Future - fighting vision impairment in later

For further information:

For further information: visit the Vision 2020 website at
or contact a representative of the World Sight Day Canada Coalition: CNIB -
Cathy Moore, (613) 563-0000 ex. 5004; cbm Canada - Lindsay O'Connor, (905)
640-6466 ex. 289; Operation Eyesight Universal - Stephen Faul, (416) 438-7280;
Optometry Giving Sight - Jane Ebbern, (403) 670-2619; World Blind Union -
Penny Hartin, (416) 486-9698

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