Visual Impairments in China
Visual impairments in China affect everyone. It affects the persons suffering from visual impairment and it affects the people around them. Of the people suffering from visual impairment worldwide, China accounts for 20% of the visually impaired population. The Fred Hollows Foundation’s web page explains why it addresses visual impairments in China: “Sight affects a person’s ability to learn, to access economic opportunities and to live a life of independence.”

Causes of Visual Impairment

Visual impairments are prevalent in the whole country, but it is more so in rural China. Different regions struggle with different eye-related diseases. However, the most common conditions that cause visual impairments in China are cataracts, uncorrected refractive error and diabetic retinopathy.

Cataracts are the most common form of eye disease that leads to blindness. About 400,000 people go blind from cataracts and 7.58 million patients wait for surgery, according to The Fred Hollows Foundation. Along with cataracts, diabetic retinopathy and uncorrected refractive error – which includes myopia or nearsightedness – are increasing eye problems. One in nine adults suffers from diabetic retinopathy. Meanwhile, by 2050, about 66.8% of China will suffer from myopia.

Effects on Education

Children especially depend on vision in the school system. If their vision is impaired in some way, learning could become difficult. Without a good education, finding a job could be difficult too. Education is the key for many people to find a well-paying job.

According to an article published in Scientific Research, the authors argue, “Vision problems that remain unresolved will eventually force people to fall deeper into poverty as they will be unable to work and make provisions for their families or conduct daily tasks and thus a heavy reliance will be placed on others for care.”

Effects on Loved Ones

Visual impairments in China not only affect the person suffering, but also affects their family. The Fred Hollows Foundation tells the story of Wang. Wang lives in Northern China with his wife and daughter. He made a living as a truck driver. One day, Wang lost his vision. He tried fixing it with a pair of glasses, but it only worked for a short time. Wang went to the hospital for a check-up and discovered he had diabetic retinopathy. He underwent laser surgery to restore his eyesight, but it also worked temporarily. His diabetes also caused cataracts.

Because of his poor eyesight, Wang had to quit his job as a truck driver and found a new, lower-paying job as a security guard. The financial burden took a toll on the family. Wang’s wife began working at a restaurant to help ends meet. However, Wang also felt the burden of his poor eyesight with the time he spent with his daughter. He could no longer help her with her homework. Instead, his daughter had to help take care of her father.

After some time, Wang underwent cataract surgery through The Fred Hollows Foundation. Fifteen minutes after surgery, Wang walked out by himself. With his eyesight back, Wang’s family grew close once again. He returned to his old job as a truck driver and can help his daughter with her homework.

The Fred Hollows Foundation

Fred Hollows founded The Fred Hollows Foundation in 1992 to address those with visual impairments. The Fred Hollows Foundation began working in the Jiangxi Province in China in 1998 to help those who suffer from cataracts. In 2012, the Fred Hollows Foundations implemented a plan to expand to other provinces in western and central China.

In China, as of 2019, The Fred Hollows Foundation screened more than 640,000 people and performed more than 290,000 eye operations. Operations include 9,000 cataract surgeries and just under 3,000 diabetic retinopathy treatments.

Although visual impairments in China are prevalent, with millions of people suffering from some kind of visual impairment, organizations like The Fred Hollows Foundation provide eye care for people who need it.

– Chris Karenbauer
Photo: Flickr