Blindness here and in the world

Blind in the sense of the law is a person in Germany, if he sees with glasses or contact lenses under 2% of what a normal-looking person recognizes. A person with glasses or contact lenses who has less than one third of the vision of normal-sighted people is classified as "visually impaired".

Blindness and gender

Blindness and visual impairment affect both men and women alike. For all age groups up to about 60 years, the distribution of cases of blindness is the same. However, as the sex ratio shifts in favor of women with increasing age, more than 2/3 of those affected by blindness and visual impairment in the age group 60+ are female!

Blindness in Germany

Around 145, 000 blind and over 500, 000 visually impaired people live in Germany. Here is a table of age distribution in different age groups.

age groupAge distribution in percentAbsolute age distribution
60-8032%46, 400
> 8138%55100

Blindness worldwide

There are around 37 million blind and 124 million visually impaired people worldwide. Every 5 seconds, a person goes blind on Earth. 90% of blind people live in developing countries. People there are 10 times more likely to go blind than in the developed world.

This is mainly due to poverty and the associated lack of medical care, including in the field of ophthalmology. For example, an ophthalmologist in Africa is statistically responsible for a million people, in Germany for around 13, 000.

Blindness in developing countries

Blindness in developing countries is the beginning of a vicious circle. Because 90% of blind children are denied the school visit and 80% of blind adults are due to lack of training opportunities without work. Therefore, they and their families have little chance of escaping poverty.

75% of blindness worldwide would be avoidable. For these are eye diseases that can be prevented or cured by simple means and therefore remain without serious consequences in our western industrialized nations, but which are the most common causes of blindness in developing countries suffering from poverty.

Causes of blindness in Central Europe

According to WHO data, blindness in Central Europe is caused by the following diseases:

  • Age-related macular degeneration 50%
  • Green cataract (glaucoma) 18%
  • Diabetic retinopathy 17%
  • Cataract 5%
  • Corneal opacities 3%
  • Blindness in childhood 2.4%
  • Other causes 4.6%.

Cataract (cataract)

Occurrence: About 17 million people - especially in Asia and Africa - are blinded to it. This makes cataract the most common cause of blindness worldwide.

Causes: On the one hand, the old-age star, usually caused by metabolic diseases and aging of the tissue, on the other hand, he may also be innate or inherited (including by rubella of the mother during pregnancy) or caused by injury.

Treatment: Starblind people - at least half of the blind - can be reproduced through surgery, the eyesight. The lens behind the pupil, which has become opaque, is removed. With a star glasses or the implantation of an artificial lens, the operated can see again. Average cost: 30 euros, children around 125 euros. In CBM-sponsored hospitals (CBM = Christoffel-Blindenmission) more than 600, 000 star surgeries were performed last year.


Occurrence: 84 million children, women and men in Africa, Southeast Asia, Central and South America and the Middle East suffer from a trachoma infection. 1.3 million people are already blinded to it.

Cause: An infection, fueled by lack of water, hygiene problems, inadequate health care, poverty and massive presence of flies that transmit this disease. Ten to 20 years after the onset of the disease, scars form on the eyelid, causing eyelashes to grow inward and rub on the cornea. This leads to scarring and clouding of the cornea and finally to blindness.

Treatment: Preventive treatment of the initial infection by regular face washing and tetracycline eye ointment. If the disease is more advanced, a small eyelid operation will help. Cost: about 15 euros. If a trachoma remains untreated, the patient must go blind. With the help of CBM, around 800, 000 people were examined and treated for trachoma last year.

Green Star (glaucoma)

Occurrence: Approximately 4.5 million people worldwide are blind.

Cause: Predominantly high intraocular pressure, which damages the optic nerve. The person affected initially feels no pain, so the green star is often noticed only when the destruction of the optic nerve is already advanced.

Treatment: Preventive examinations (measurement of intraocular pressure with tonometer) eye drops, surgery. An already occurring vision loss is irreversible.

River blindness (onchocerciasis)

Occurrences: In West and Central Africa, South America, parts of the Arabian Peninsula. 290, 000 people are blinded terminally.

Cause: In the case of the bloodsucking simulium fly (called the black fly), larvae are transmitted to humans, who live for up to twelve years and release millions of microscopic worms (microfilariae). These migrate in the body around in the eye and destroy the optic nerve.

Treatment: Preventive with the drug Mectizan. It must be taken regularly once or twice a year for ten years. CBM distributes Mectizan in close coordination with the World Health Organization (WHO). Cost: About one euro per tablet distributed.

As part of the nationwide treatment of onchocerciasis, employees from the partner projects have already reached around 3.3 million people. Left untreated, onchocerciasis can lead to blindness.

Vitamin A deficiency (childhood blindness)

Occurrence: Between 350, 000 and 500, 000 infants go blind in developing countries each year. Many of them die within a few years of blindness. In total, 1.4 million children are blind.

Causes: One of the reasons is diet-related vitamin A deficiency (xerophthalmia). It leads to softening and clouding of the cornea with blindness as a consequence. The process is accelerated eg by measles, because this infectious disease consumes a lot of vitamin A.

Treatment: Vitamin rich diet and preventive intake of vitamin A capsules. The distribution of a capsule costs 1 Euro. If a child is blinded by xerophthalmia, his eyesight is irretrievably lost. In total, about 830, 000 vitamin A capsules were distributed by CBM.

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