A study published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology estimates the number of eye doctors in practice around the world to be just over 200,000. This will likely be insufficient to meet the increasing needs of developing countries and of aging populations.
Patients lined up at Lumbini Eye Hospital in Nepal
Nearly half of the 205,000 ophthalmologists are practicing in the Unites States, China, Japan, India, Russia and Brazil. The study results are based on a survey conducted by the International Council of Ophthalmology involving 213 ophthalmic societies in 192 countries. The number of ophthalmologists practicing by country varies from 0 to over 28,000. It is surprising to find that 131 countries have less than 5% of the total number of ophthalmologists between them. In 23 countries, there are less than one per million of the population, and 30 countries had 1–4 ophthalmologists.
Patients waiting at an eye hospital in Nepal
Specialists are worried about the fact that in 73 countries, the population of individuals aged 60+ increased by 2.9% from 2009 to 2010, whereas the proportion of ophthalmologists only increased by 1.2%. According to the researchers, “it will be extremely challenging to train enough ophthalmologists to provide the care that will be needed in the years to come.”
Photos by © Ellen Crystal Photography