Over one million people with avoidable sight loss

Find out more about this statistic and our campaign partner, eye research charity, Fight for Sight.

FFS350We’ve partnered with eye research charity Fight for Sight for our Celebrate your sight campaign. Fight for Sight calculate that there are over one million people in the UK living with avoidable sight loss. 

Fight for Sight is the UK’s largest charity funding pioneering eye research.  

Fight for Sight’s ambition is to stop sight loss caused by eye conditions and diseases. They achieve this by funding research, and maximising their impact by providing information, influencing opinion and shaping policy.

Fight for Sight’s involvement in the campaign

Dr Neil Ebenezer, Director of Research, Policy and Innovation at Fight for Sight said: “It’s so important that people go for an eye test at least every two years which is why we’re part of this campaign. Our figures show that there are over one million people living with sight loss that could be avoided with the right specialist support. Our recent research with YouGov also found that three in ten people are not getting their eyes tested regularly and that the main reason given is that they think they can see fine. Even if your vision is currently not affected, it’s still really important to get your eyes tested as a test can pick up certain eye conditions at an early stage, allowing you to get the treatment you need. It may also be possible to pick up on early stages of other conditions not directly related to sight.”


The IAPB Vision Atlas (“Vision Atlas”) gives the following estimated number of people with distance vision loss in the UK in 2015:

 Vision loss  Blind  Moderate and severe visual impairment
 Number of people - all ages  126,346  1,567,777
 Number of people aged 50 years  120,735  1,440,966

The categories above are defined by reference to visual acuity in the better eye as follows: 

Category Blind Moderate and severe visual impairment

Visual acuity

 <3/60  <6/18 to ≥3/60

Avoidable sight loss due to a preventable or treatable cause can be estimated by aggregating the figures for vision loss due to uncorrected refractive error, cataract, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and corneal opacity.  Flaxman, Bourne, et al (Lancet Global Health, December 2017) have published the following percentages for avoidable sight loss for adults aged 50 years and over in Western Europe in 2015. There is currently no cause-specific data for the UK:

 Category  Blind  Moderate and severe visual impairment
 Uncorrected RE 13.12%  49.61%
 Cataract 21.42%  15.49%
 Glaucoma 13.50%   3.58%
 Diabetic retinopathy 3.30%  3.48%
 Corneal opacity 2.43%  0.81%
 Total 53.77%  72.97%

Applying the percentages above to the UK figures for those aged 50 and over gives the following estimates of avoidable sight loss in the UK: table

 Vision loss  Blind  Moderate and severe visual impairment
 Number of people  120,735  1,440,966
 Avoidable (%)  53.77%  72.97%
 Avoidable (Number of people)  64,919  1,051,472


It can be estimated that there are over one million people in the UK with avoidable sight loss. 

This statement can be justified given that based on estimates above there are over 1.1 million people aged 50 years and older with avoidable sight loss. This figure does not include those under the age of 50 years, those with mild distant vision loss and those with near vision loss.  Adding these people would clearly increase the estimate further.

Find out more about Fight for Sight.