Aims: To review recent data on prevalence and causes of blindness and visual impairment in Latin America.
Method: Data from recent population-based prevalence surveys in nine countries in Latin America, covering 30 544 people aged 50 years and older, are presented.
Results: The prevalence of bilateral blindness (VA <3/60 in the better eye with available correction) ranged from 1.3% in urban Buenos Aires, Argentina, to 4.0% in two rural districts of Peru; low vision from 5.9% in Buenos Aires to 12.5% in rural Guatemala. Cataract was the main cause of blindness (41–87%), followed by posterior segment disease (7–47%). Avoidable blindness ranged from 43% in urban Brazil to 94% in rural Guatemala.
Conclusions: 43% to 88% of all blindness in Latin America is curable, being caused by cataract and refractive errors. Simple and cost-effective intervention strategies exist and need to be made available to more people. Also, the visual outcome from cataract surgery can be improved. In the urban areas with adequate eye care services, blindness and low vision due to posterior segment disease are increasing. Results from these surveys may help planners to estimate the prevalence and causes of blindness in their own area or country.
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Funding: The surveys presented here were conducted with financial support from the World Health Organization (Paraguay), the Pan American Health Organization–World Health Organization (Paraguay, Peru, Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Guatemala, Cuba, Mexico, Chile) and Christian Blind Mission (Peru, Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Guatemala, Cuba, Mexico, Chile).
Competing interests: None.