Number of Aussies living with cataracts on the rise

An increasing number of Australians are living with cataracts, particularly women aged over 80, according to new data released by the Medibank Better Health Index.

More than 700,000 Australians were affected by cataracts in 2016-17, an increase of 139,000 compared with 2010-2011. The figures, released to coincide with International Women’s Day, also showed than 18.5% of women aged over 80 were affected by the condition, compared with 13.4% six years ago.

“It’s well known that the risk of developing cataracts increases as people get older, however this new data also suggests there’s been a slight rise in the number of Australians affected,” Medibank clinical director Dr Sue Abhary said.

The numbers also indicate women are more likely to have cataracts than men, with 4.4% of Australian women affected compared with 3.5% of Australian men.

According to The Fred Hollows Foundation, this gender imbalance is reflected worldwide, with women around 1.3x more likely to have a visual impairment than men. As a result, women comprise around 55% of the 36 million people who live with blindness globally.

“We know vision impairment and blindness have far-reaching implications, not just for the women affected, but also for their families and for progress towards many of the UN Sustainable Development Goals,” Fred Hollows CEO Mr Ian Wishart said.

“To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as targets for Vision 2020, we must eliminate all forms of inequity in access to eyecare for women and girls.”

Vision 2020 Australia has committed to working with its members both locally and abroad to help provide women and girls with access to eyecare services, and CEO Ms Carla Northam said it should be a priority for all countries.

“Gender inequality in eye health is clearly a global issue, and we strongly support all of our members doing this work locally and globally,” Northam said.

“Addressing gender imbalances in eye health will go a long way towards reducing avoidable blindness around the world.”

Insight

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