Helping India See Again: Combatting Blindness

Imagine a world where waking up was the same as sleeping, eternal darkness, with no end in sight. Luckily, if you’re reading this, then you are not one of the 36 million people in the world who are blind as of 2015 – however, you could be one of the 217 million with severe or moderate visual impairment (MSVI) or one of the 1.1 billion with near-vision impairments, a condition that can be corrected with spectacles.1 Here, the Tej Kohli Cornea Institute sheds some light on the pressing issue of visual impairment in India.

Causes and Prevention of Visual Impairment

Some people are born blind, while others develop vision impairments throughout their life and either need to wear glasses or lose their vision completely, a devastating and in some cases preventable outcome. The most common reasons for visual impairments are cases like eye diseases, such as macular degeneration and glaucoma, diabetes, strokes, injury from sharp objects, toxic chemicals and unfortunately, eye surgeries gone wrong. Another undeniable cause of visual impairment and blindness is age, most particularity through the development of cataracts – in fact, 82% of those who are blind worldwide are over 50 and 65% of those who are visually impaired are over the age of 50 as well.2

Luckily, there are things that people can do to prevent blindness including eating healthy – with a healthy diet that includes omega-3 fatty acids, lutein, zinc, vitamins C and E that have the potential to prevent macular degeneration and cataracts, avoiding smoking, giving your eyes a break from electronic screens and regular visits to the optometrist.

While going to the optometrist seems like the undeniable answer to preventing visual impairments, they are unfortunately inaccessible to a large portion of the world’s population as 89% of the visually impaired live in low and middle-income countries2, which could explain why 1.1 billion people have near-vision impairments.1

India – The Largest Blind Population

One region of the world in particular where visual impairment is a crisis is India, home to approximately 1.3 billion people – making up roughly 17% of the world’s population. India is already a country that plays host to some of the world’s greatest poverty, that it unfortunately comes as little surprise that The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that as of 2010, nearly 8 million Indians were blind and another 54 million were visually impaired.2 The most unfortunate part about these statistics is that 75% of these cases are avoidable – to put things into perspective, India currently has 8,000 optometrists yet they need 40,000 to ensure their citizens are well taken care of.

Luckily, there are people who are aware of these concerns, including our founder, Tej Kohli. Charity is something near and dear to him, especially to help the citizens in his native country of India, which he does through the Tej Kohli Cornea Institute (TKCI).

From our base at the world-renowned LV Prasad Eye Institute in Hyderabad, the Tej Kohli Cornea Institute provides treatment for all corneal diseases under various subspecialties across 3 tertiary centres – Bhubaneswar, Vijayawada and Visakhapatnam, and the Centre of Excellence in Hyderabad.

Our aim is to tackle blindness across the globe through the establishment of a worldwide network of resource centres, as part of Tej Kohli’s personal mission to end corneal blindness by 2030.

It’s through organizations such as the Tej Kohli charity fund that the 153 million Indians who need reading glasses will gain access to them, that corneas will be made accessible and that hopefully these cases where MSVI and near-vision impairments can be cured, they will be.