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This paper summarises the findings of the 2008 National Indigenous Eye Health Survey (NIEHS). It reports the overall prevalence of blindness and vision impairment in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 5 to 15 years and adults over the age of 40 years. The paper also presents some data from the National Trachoma Surveillance and Reporting Unit, Medicare, hospital data and case studies.
Vision loss refers to both low vision and blindness.
The most common cause of blindness in Indigenous adults was cataract (32%), and the most common cause of low vision was uncorrected refractive error (54%) (Figure 1). Refractive errors include near-sightedness, far-sightedness and astigmatism. In Indigenous children, uncorrected refractive error was the most important cause of low vision (56%) and blindness (33%).
Trachoma is an infectious disease, which if left untreated can result in turned in eyelids, causing the eyelashes to scratch the cornea.
Refractive error refers to problems with the focusing of light and is a frequent cause of reduced visual acuity.
A cataract is a mostly degenerative condition in which the lens of the eye clouds over, obstructing the passage of light to cause vision loss and, potentially, blindness.
Diabetic retinopathy (damage to the blood vessels in the retina) is caused by complications of diabetes which can eventually lead to blindness.
Glaucoma is a condition in which there is elevated pressure within the eye caused by obstruction of the outflow of fluid (aqueous humour).
More detailed information can be found in Eye health in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (646KB PDF).