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Eye (Lond). 2006 Jun;20(6):661-7. Epub 2005 May 27.

Prevalence of blindness and low vision in an Italian population: a comparison with other European studies.

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Physiopathological Optics, Department of Biopathology and Diagnostic Imaging, University of Rome Tor Vergata, Rome, Italy.



The scientific literature contains recent data on the prevalence of blindness and low vision for a few European countries, but most of these studies have been focused exclusively on the elderly sector of the populations. The purpose of the present study was to provide age-specific estimates of the prevalence and causes of visual loss in an Italian population aged 40 years and over.


In total, 847 of the 1,200 citizens >40 years of age (70.6%) in the island community of Ponza underwent complete standardized ophthalmological examinations. Visual acuity (VA) was measured using a standard logarithmic chart. World health organization (WHO) definitions of blindness and low vision were adopted (respectively, VA>1.3 logMAR or a visual field <10 degrees around central fixation, and VA >0.5 to 1.3 logMAR or a visual field <20 degrees around central fixation). Prevalence rates based on presenting VAs were also calculated.


The overall best-corrected prevalence rates were 0.6% (presenting, 0.8%) for better eye blindness, 2.1% (presenting, 6.7%) for better eye low vision, 1.8% (presenting, 2.6%) for monocular blindness, 5.0% (presenting, 11.2%) for monocular low vision. Cataract, glaucoma, degenerative myopia, and AMD were the main causes of better eye visual loss.


Age-specific prevalence rates in Ponza are fairly consistent with those for other European countries with similar socio-economic conditions and public healthcare systems. A substantial percentage of visual losses remains uncorrected despite the availability of potentially curative therapy. Greater emphasis needs to be placed on educating the public regarding the importance of good vision.

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