How much less blindness is there today.

I was have no luck finding any data on something I have been wondering about.

It seems to me there is less blindness in First world countries(well America) then there was when I was a kid. And it makes prefect sense, comparing now to .

  1. Diseases like measles that can cause blindness are very rare with vaccinations, and even if someone does catch it there are advanced medical procedures to stop it before it gets as serious as before.
  2. Much greater medical knowledge and technology to deal with glaucoma and cataracts and the lot.
  3. Work safety laws requiring( saftey glasses, frequent equipment inspections etc.) combined with the fact there are fewer dangerous labor jobs around machines, and agricultural equipment, and more sitting in desks.
  4. Less numbers of people going into war. Now we have less people going and getting shot at, compared to the hundreds of thousands in WWI and II and earlier wars.

But on the other hand, in pre-industrialization there where very few people blinded by car accidents or mad scientists lasers.

And just many other factors that might not be so obvious.

I am really curious how much the numbers are changing. Does anybody know of any charts that give blindness stats? Like say % of people in their 30’s blind by decade going way back?

One thing to think about is the definition of “blind” is culturally influenced. In modern society, you pretty much need to be able to read. But in a pre-industrial society, you would be more likely to get away with having poor vision without considering yourself to have a disability.

Diabetes is one of the leading causes of blindness.

I fear for the future of children that have diabetes. Especially if they stop treatment as adults.

Part of the problem is that there weren’t these kinds of systematic prevalence studies many decades ago.

The earliest true attempt to measure the rate of blindness - or vision impairment - was in the late 60s early 70s. But it had, like a lot of prevalence studies do, problems with under-representation of those at the low end of the socio-economic scale. Over the years, several other studies have been conducted to measure visual impairment. (These studies rarely include those under 40 since blindness is very rare in that age group.)

A meta-analysis of these studies was done in 2004 and can be found here: This study specifically excludes studies from prior to 1990.

You’ll need institutional access to see it, but the conclusion is basically that the prevalence of vision impairment has gone up (and is expected to continue that trend) - as people live longer, they tend to get things like age-related macular degeneration which have a significant impact on vision.

More interesting data here.

Thanks guys.

I didn’t really explain it right, but I was hoping for something age independant like only for people in their 30s or 40s.

IIRC was it sometime in the 50’s that doctors had the bright idea to give premature babies pure oxygen, only to find this caused overgrowth of the retina’s blood vessels and thus blindness? So that would be one short-lived cause of blindness, for a group that’s probably about what, 50 to 60 nowadays?

Well, some of the babies that got the pure oxygen would have died without it, so given those constraints, the idea wasn’t necessarily so dumb.

Not dumb… just the law of unintended consequences. I assume they’ve learned now the appropriate level of oxygen to first do no harm.

Prematurity still carries a significant risk of blindness as a consequence. Perhaps there are times when the choice is between survival as a blind person and death? I know there are instances where certain infections have to be treated with antibiotics or other drugs that can cause permanent deafness, leading to a choice between believe alive and deaf or just pain dead.

Was the OP wondering about less “blind for entire life/pediatric cases?” Or young people who are blind?
Blindness is still around in that population, but it’s actually kind of unusual to just be blind. About 60% of pediatric blind cases are due to multiple handicaps. (and not nessarily the severe or profound cases where there are lots of physical disabilites) Meaning that almost all blind schools are filled with kids who are more complicated then being “just blind” One of my friends went to Perkins School for the Blind, (in the 90’s) and he was one of only a handful of “just blind” /normal IQ students there. Whereas when Stevie Wonder went to Michigan School for the Blind, most kids there were prolly high functioning. And it prolly was that way until the 60’s or 70’s, when better medical treatment prolly reduced the numbers of “just blind” kids.
With adults, it does seem like most causes of blindness may be due to things like military issues (wasn’t there something in the media about a lot of disabilty issues being caused by blind issues)
But yeah most just blind cases are due to age.