Some Facts about Visual Impairment in China
How many blind people are there in China?
There are currently over 82 million disabled people in China, at least 16 million of whom are blind or visually impaired. No accurate figures exist for the number of people actually affected by sight-loss, though some sources have put the figure as high as 20 million. Even the lowest estimates indicate that China 's visually impaired population is the largest of any country, representing about 18% of all visually impaired people in the world.
What are the main problems faced by blind people in China?
The rapid increase in the proportion of elderly people in China means that age-related visual impairment - especially cataract - is becoming increasingly common. Meanwhile sight-loss is often associated with poverty and social exclusion, and the growing poverty gap in China is making this situation more acute. As in most developing countries the vast majority of visually impaired people in China live in the countryside where medical, educational and other vital services are often inadequate. The main concerns of visually impaired people in China include:
• Poverty and poor living conditions
• Lack of access to reliable, free health care
• Limited educational and employment opportunities
• Social prejudice and dscrimination
• Inadequate legal protection for people with disabilities
• Lack of democratic processes and civil society advocacy
• Inadequate public information
What are the main causes of sight-loss in China?
Causes of low vision and blindness may vary geographically and between city and countryside. The main causes of sight-loss, listed by frequency of occurrence, are:
- Degenerative myopia
- Corneal opacity
Other less common conditions, whose frequency may vary according to region and socio-economic status, include: retinitis pigmentosa (RP), damage to the optic nerve, macular degeneration, nystagmus, microphthalmus
Many eye conditions in China, such as cataract and glaucoma, are easily treatable. Yet despite impressive campaigns by the Chinese Ministry of Health, China Disabled Person’s Federation, ORBIS, Lions Clubs International and other bodies, these conditions are still common and often remain untreated. Many visually impaired people, especially those in rural areas, remain hidden and undiagnosed. Moreover, China’s rapid industrial development has produced unprecedented levels of industrial injury and traffic accidents, resulting in a growing incidence of trauma-related sight-loss and blindness. As with other forms of disability in China blindness is often avoidable and treatable, given improved living conditions, better medical services and public information.
Recent studies indicate that AMD (age-related macular degeneration) and diabetic retinopathy are much less common in elderly Chinese people than amongst most elderly people in western countries.
For further information about eye diseases in China, please see: