4.1 million people will be affected by sight loss in the UK by 2050

Post date: 
Tuesday, 10 October 2017
Photo of a man in an eye clinic waiting room

This is just one of the shocking facts about sight loss found in recent studies. But what are some of the other stats you really need to know about? Emma Edwards, Insight Analyst at RNIB, provides information that reflects the extent of sight loss across the UK.

How many people are blind or partially sighted in the UK (country breakdown)

More than two million people are living with sight loss that has a significant impact on their daily life.
  • The estimated number of people living with sight loss in England is 1.7 million
  • The estimated number of people living with sight loss in Wales is 107,000
  • The estimated number of people living with sight loss in Scotland is 171,000
  • The estimated number of people living with sight loss in Northern Ireland is 51,000.
(DAE, 2017 and ONS, 2015)
 
How many children? 
 
There are over 25,000 visually impaired children aged 16 years and under.
  • In England, 21,900 children are estimated to be visually impaired
  • In Wales, 1,200 children are estimated to be visually impaired
  • In Scotland, 1,900 children are estimated to be visually impaired
  • In Northern Ireland, 800 children are estimated to be visually impaired.
(Morris and Smith, 2008 and ONS, 2015)

What is the risk of sight loss?

  • Every day 250 people start to lose their sight
  • One in five people will live with sight loss in their lifetime
(DAE, 2017)
 
How many people in the UK are registered blind?
 
 
Around 350,000 people are registered blind or partially sighted in the UK.
  • In England, over 143,000 people are registered blind and over 147,000 are registered partially sighted (HSCIC, 2014) 
  • In Wales, almost 8,000 people are registered severely sight impaired and over 8,000 are registered sight impaired (Welsh Government, 2016)
  • In Scotland, almost 19,000 people are registered severely sight impaired and over 15,000 are registered partially sighted (Scottish Government, 2010)

How many people are blind or partially sighted and have a learning disability?

An estimated 100,000 adults with learning disabilities are blind or partially sighted in the UK 
(RNIB, 2017)
 
How are people from black and minority ethnic communities affected by sight loss?
People from certain ethnic communities are at greater risk of some of the leading causes of sight loss:
  • Black African and Caribbean people are four to eight times more at risk of developing certain forms of glaucoma compared to white people
  • The risk of diabetic eye disease is around three times greater in South Asian people compared to white people
  • Black African and Caribbean people are also at a higher risk of diabetic eye disease
(Wormald et al., 1994; Cross et al.,2007; Pardhan et al., 2004; Sivaprasad et al., 2012)
 
Does sight loss affect a particular age group?
 
 
The older you are, the greater your risk of sight loss. One in five people aged 75 and over are living with sight loss

(DAE, 2017)
 
Causes of sight loss in the two million?
  • 39 per cent have refractive error
  • 23 per cent have age-related macular degeneration
  • 19 per cent have cataracts
  • 7 per cent have glaucoma
  • 7 per cent have other eye diseases
  • 5 per cent have diabetic retinopathy
(Pezzullo L, et al, 2016) 
 
What are the main causes of blindness in adults?
  • 48 per cent of people are blind due to AMD
  • 17.5 per cent due to glaucoma
  • 16 per cent due to cataracts
  • 9 per cent due to other eye diseases
  • 8 per cent due to diabetic eye disease
  • 2 per cent due to refractive error
 (Pezzullo et al, 2016)

What are the main causes of blindness in children?

 
There are numerous causes of blindness in children, but cerebral visual impairment is the commonest cause of certification for severe sight impairment in England and Wales.
 
(Mitry et al, 2013)
 
What is the estimated number of people with sight loss by 2050? 
 
The projected estimate for the number of people with sight loss in the UK in 2050 is 4,145,000.
 
(Pezzullo L, et al, 2016)
 
What is the cost of eye health and sight loss?
  • The direct healthcare cost linked to eye health is estimated to be at least £3 billion every year. This includes NHS healthcare expenditure
  • Indirect costs associated with sight loss cost the UK economy around £6 billion every year. This includes costs due to lower employment rates and unpaid care provision
  • It is estimated that the associated reduction in wellbeing and health due to sight loss totals £19 billion every year
(Pezzullo et al, 2016)
 
Realities of sight loss
  • Only 17 per cent of people experiencing sight loss are offered emotional support in relation to their deteriorating vision
  • Less than one in three registered blind and partially sighted people were offered mobility training, and only one in five received any practical support around the home
  • Only one in four registered blind or partially sighted people of working age is in employment.
(My Voice, 2015)
 
Further information
 
References
 
Deloitte Access Economics (2017). Incidence and risk of sight loss and blindness in the UK. RNIB
Morris and Smith (2008) Educational provision for blind and partially sighted children and young people in Britain: 2007. RNIB
Office for National Statistics (2015) 2014-based National Population Projections: Principle projections
Emerson E and Robertson J (2011) The Estimated Prevalence of Visual Impairment among People with Learning Disabilities in the UK. RNIB
Health and Social Care Information Centre (2014). Registered blind and partially sighted people: Year ending 31 March 2014, England
ISD Scotland (2014). R830: Ophthalmic services
D Mitry, et al. (2013). Causes of certifications for severe sight impairment (blind) and sight impairment (partial sight) in children in England and Wales. The British Journal of Ophthalmology, 97(11), 1431-1436.
NHS England (2015). CCG programme budgeting benchmarking tool
RNIB (2017). Sight Loss Data Tool. RNIB
The Scottish Government (2010). Registered blind and partially sighted persons Scotland 2010
Welsh Government (2016) Register of physically/sensory disabled persons on 31 March 2016
Welsh Government (2015). NHS expenditure programme budgets: 2013-14
Pezzullo L, et al. (2016). The economic impact of sight loss and blindness in the UK adult population. Manuscript submitted for publication
Access Economics (2009) Future Sight Loss UK 1: The economic impact of partial sight and blindness in the UK adult population. RNIB
My Voice (2015) The views and experiences of blind and partially sighted people in the UK. RNIB
Wormald et al. (1994) The African Caribbean Eye Survey: Risk factors for glaucoma in a sample of African Caribbean people living in London. Eye (London, England), 8(3), 315-320
Cross et al. (2007) ReGAE 2: glaucoma awareness and the primary eye-care service: some perceptions among African Caribbeans in Birmingham UK. Eye 21, 912–920
Pardhan et al. (2004) Impact of age and duration on sight-threatening retinopathy in South Asians and Caucasians attending a diabetic clinic. Eye (London, England), 18(3), 233-240
Sivaprasad et al. (2012) Ethnic Variations in the Prevalence of Diabetic Retinopathy in People with Diabetes Attending Screening in the United Kingdom (DRIVE UK). PLoS One, 7(3): e32182

 

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