The number of blind and visually impaired people in Germany is continuing to fall, according to a recent report which may mirror global trends.
According to the study, carried out by Robert Finger and published in the current edition of Deutsches Arzteblatt International, there has been a steady decline in the numbers of people in Germany who are blind or visually impaired.
In the study, Dr Finger and co-authors explain that the ageing of the population would lead analysts to expect an increase in the numbers of blind and visually impaired, as in most cases the main reason for loss of vision is an age-related disease.
For example, rates of macular degeneration and diabetes-related eye disease both go up with age, but at the same time the number of cases in which glaucoma or optic nerve atrophy results in blindness are going down, with retinal detachment also occurring less frequently.
The experts used data from the archive of the blind registry of the Rhineland Regional Council and were able to calculate the prevalence of blindness (standardised for sex and age) from 1978 to 2006.
This was cross-referenced with the Severe Disability Statistics on blindness and visual impairment, the results of which results the scientists to formulate prevalence trends for the past 30 years.
In total, the number of registered blind in the Rhineland increased from 10,665 in 1978 to 15,766 in 1997 but then remained stable until 2006, when it was 15,725.
The prevalence of blindness in the region of study also rose from 1978 to 1997 and then remained stable until 2006, as reflected in the dataset for blindness and visual impairment.
After standardisation for Germany, the prevalence was observed to have fallen slightly since 1997, with further studies now attempting to determine the reasons behind this fall and any possible future fluctuations.