World Sight Day to raise awareness of blindness and visual impairment

World Sight Day is observed annually on the second Thursday of October. This global event coordinated by The International Agency for the Promotion of Blindness (IAPB) in cooperation with the World Health Organization (WHO) is meant to raise public awareness of blindness and vision impairment as major international public health issues. World Sight Day aims to influence governments/ministers of health to participate in and designate funds for national blindness prevention programmes, to educate target audiences about blindness prevention and to generate support for VISION 2020, a global initiative of WHO and IAPB for the elimination of avoidable blindness.

The IAPB Vision Atlas indicates that, globally, 36 million people are blind and 217 million people have moderate-to-severe visual impairment (89% living in low- and middle-income countries). Among the causes of visual impairment, 75% of them are avoidable.

A substantial percentage of non-preventable cases of blindness is due to single gene disorders with Mendelian inheritance and disorders with complex inheritance. According to the Cleveland Clinicinherited eye diseases are responsible for more than 60 percent of cases of blindness among infants. In recent years we have witnessed strong progress in the identification of the molecular causes of genetic blindness and vision impairment (with more than 500 causative genes identified) and in the methodologies for genetic diagnosis, enhancing our capacity to provide accurate diagnosis, counselling, and treatments. In the coming years, genetic and cellular therapies under study promise to revolutionize treatments for non-preventable forms of blindness.

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