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Blindness in the eastern Mediterranean countries
  1. Khalid F Tabbara
  1. The Eye Center and The Eye Foundation for Research in Ophthalmology, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
  1. PO Box 55307, Riyadh 11534, Saudi Arabiak.tabbara{at}

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Blinding eye diseases remain a highly prevalent and serious health problem in many developing countries. The exact number of blind individuals is not known. It is estimated that there are 38 million people who have visual impairment and are at risk of becoming blind.12

The prevalence of blindness in developing countries is 10–40 times higher than in developed countries and close to three quarters of the world's blindness is either curable or preventable. The majority of blind people on earth reside in the developing nations of Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

The World Health Organization (WHO) definition of blindness is a visual acuity of less than 3/60 (20/200, 0.05), and low vision is less than 6/18 (20/50, 0.3) in the better eye with the best correction.1 In the eastern Mediterranean countries2 (Table 1), there are several studies on the prevalence of blindness.3-14 Certain studies were community based prevalence surveys while others included reports on blindness from registries of schools for the blind. The prevalence of blindness in Lebanon is 0.6%8 and 1.5% in Saudi Arabia.12 The leading causes of blindness have been determined by information retrieved from registries for the blind in a number of countries. In general, data obtained from hospitals, social security records, or institutions for the blind may give us an idea about the causes of blindness but these sources suffer from certain limitations. Often excluded from consideration are remote populations, those who do not seek medical advice, unilateral blindness, older individuals, and preschool children.

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Table 1

Demography of eastern Mediterranean countries

In countries in the eastern Mediterranean eye diseases have long been recognised as a major health problem. Table 2 shows the leading causes of blindness in these countries. In Saudi Arabia, a community based blindness survey was conducted to determine …

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