Guide 1: What do we know about blind and partially-sighted people?

Who does this include?

As of 2015, more than two million people in the UK are living with sight loss that is severe enough to have a significant impact on their daily lives, such as not being able to drive.

This includes:

  • People who are registered blind or partially-sighted
  • People whose vision is better than the levels that qualify for registration
  • People who are awaiting or having treatment such as eye injections, laser treatment or surgery that may improve their sight
  • People whose sight loss could be improved by wearing correctly prescribed glasses or contact lenses.

Those at risk

Those at high risk of sight loss include:

  • People in later life: there are 1.2 million people living with sight loss who are aged 75 years and over
  • Children and young people: there are more than 25,000 blind and partially-sighted children aged 16 years and under in the UK. As many as half of these children have other disabilities. Some children are at higher risk of vision impairment, including those who are very premature and very low birth weight babies, children from the most economically deprived backgrounds, and children with learning difficulties.
  • People on low incomes: difficulty in getting to an optometrist and concerns about the cost of glasses can result in people not going for eye tests as often as they want, or delaying visits until they experience symptoms.
  • BAME people: people from certain ethnic communities are at greater risk of some of the leading causes of sight loss yet many are unaware of this.
  • People living with diabetes
  • Learning disabled people
  • People living with dementia
  • People who smoke
  • Stroke survivors.

Main causes

The main causes of sight loss are:

  • Uncorrected refracted error – 39 per cent (the majority of sight loss due to refractive error can be corrected by wearing the right prescription glasses)
  • Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) – 23 per cent
  • Cataract – 19 per cent
  • Glaucoma – 7 per cent
  • Diabetic eye disease – 5 per cent

Among those people registered blind or partially-sighted, the main causes of sight loss are:

  • Age-related macular degeneration – 48 per cent
  • Glaucoma – 16 per cent
  • Cataract – 12 per cent
  • Retinitis Pigmentosa* – 10 per cent
  • Diabetic eye disease – 8 per cent

*Retinitis Pigmentosa is the name given to a group of inherited eye conditions that affect the retina at the back of the eye – more information at:


Over 24,000 people are given a Certificate of Vision Impairment [CVI] each year in England and Wales (a CVI certifies a person as either sight impaired (partially sighted) or severely sight impaired (blind). The purpose of the CVI is to provide a formal referral route for someone with sight loss to social care services

Around 350,000 people are registered blind or partially-sighted in the UK in total. Half of these people are registered blind, and half are registered partially-sighted

As the RNIB notes:

“It is important to remember that certification and registration only provide information about blind and partially sighted people who have been in some contact with health and social care services. They are a useful indication of the number of people affected by sight loss, but they do not provide the complete picture of how many people are affected by sight loss in the UK.”

Further information is available from:

Eye health and sight loss stats and facts, RNIB, 2018

Key information and statistics on sight loss in the UK, RNIB, 2018