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Pakistani women 30 percent more likely to be blind than men

The odds of a woman in Pakistan being blind are 30 percent higher than for a Pakistani man according to a new survey published in the November 2006 issue of Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science (IOVS).

Researchers from the Pakistan Institute of Community Ophthalmology in Peshawar, Pakistan, and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in England conducted a survey of 16,600 adults 30 years of age of older. The study examined several factors in measuring the prevalence of blindness in Pakistan, the sixth most populous country in the world. These included age and socioeconomic indicators including education and household occupation.

The study showed that the prevalence of blindness was higher in women in every age category surveyed except those aged 30 to 39 years. After adjusting for age differences in the study sample, the odds of a woman being blind were 30 percent higher than for a man. The researchers theorize that lower utilization of eye care services as the result of barriers specific to women may explain this disparity.

In addition, the regions of Punjab and Balochistan were shown to have the highest incidence of blindness of Pakistan's four provinces. Of study participants 70 years or older, 76.9 percent were visually impaired. It is estimated that there are 1.14 million blind adults in Pakistan.

"This large population-based study, one of the few nationally representative studies worldwide, has reported the burden of blindness and visual impairment in this country and, most importantly, has revealed important gender and geographical differences," said Rupert Bourne, BSC, FRCOpth, MD, collaborating survey ophthalmologist from the International Centre for Eye Health, London, England. "Knowledge of these groups who are at risk and the barriers to uptake of eyecare should enable more effective and equitable targeting of resources. Data from the survey predicts an increase of blind individuals by 92 percent by the year 2020, which further emphasizes the importance of urgently improving the standard of eye care in this country."

Elinore Tibbetts | EurekAlert!
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