Future impact of sight loss

June 10, 2009

A study by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) on the prevalence and costs of sight loss estimates that 1.8 million people with partial sight and blindness lived in the UK in 2008.

A study by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) on the prevalence and costs of sight loss estimates that 1.8 million people with partial sight and blindness lived in the UK in 2008. It found that 53.5% was due to refractive error, 16.7% AMD, 13.7% cataract, 5.3% glaucoma, 3.5% diabetic retinopathy, and 7.4% due to other eye diseases.

The study, which comprises two pieces of research undertaken by Access Economics and EpiVision, will support and inform the UK Vision Strategy and RNIB’s strategic goals.

EpiVision found that between 2010 and 2020, prevalence in the UK adult population of sight loss due to AMD will have risen by 31%, cataracts by 20%, diabetic retinopathy by 16% and glaucoma by 25%. However, among people of African-Caribbean origin there is predicted to be a 57% increase in sight loss due to glaucoma, over the decade.

Looking at direct costs to the health care system and indirect costs, such as unemployment due to sight loss, Access Economics calculates the total economic cost of sight problems in the UK during 2008 to be £6.5 billion. While further findings predict that by 2050 the numbers of people with partial sight and blindness in the UK will more than double, to nearly 4 million people.

In addition to studying the current costs of sight loss, the research considers the impact of expected future improvements in prevention and treatment, on the prevalence and costs of AMD and other conditions.

Future Sight Loss UK also looks at the cost-effectiveness of a number of interventions for preventing and treating sight loss.

These studies suggest that the most cost-effective intervention is expected to be one targeting minority ethnic groups, who are expected to have lower access to eye care services than the general population and more severe cases of undetected eye disease.

Lesley-Anne Alexander, chief executive of RNIB and chairman of the UK Vision Strategy strategic advisory group, says: “This report provides incredibly valuable data to drive the UK Vision Strategy and RNIB’s work to ensure those most at risk of sight loss have the benefit of high quality and timely intervention.

“The cost of sight loss, both direct and indirect, cannot be understated, though it is something that can be managed effectively. The right steps need to be taken now to avoid unnecessary sight loss and help those who have already lost their sight get the support they need to live full, independent lives.”

The research briefing on Future Sight Loss UK is available from www.rnib.org.uk/futuresightlossuk

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