Aim: The last complete report on causes of blindness in England and Wales was for data collected during April 1990 to March 1991. This current study sought to update these figures, with data collected during April 1999 to March 2000, and examine variation in cause by age group.
Methods: In England and Wales, registration for blindness is voluntary and is initiated by certification by a consultant ophthalmologist. The main cause of blindness was ascertained where possible for all certificates completed during April 1999 to March 2000 and tabulated by age group.
Results: A total of 34 410 BD8 certificates were received, of which 13 788 (40%) were for people certified as blind. Different causes predominated within different age groups. Age related macular degeneration (AMD) was the lead cause in those aged 65 years and above, diabetic retinopathy was the lead cause in people of working ages (16-64 years), whereas cerebral visual impairment and disorders of the optic nerve accounted for over 40% of blind certificates completed for children.
Conclusion: Estimates of vision impairment based on certifications for blindness in England and Wales are likely to be imprecise. They do, however, give some measure of the burden at hospital level of sight impairing eye conditions. If factors determining the imprecision remain constant, temporal monitoring of causes may enable changes and development of new conditions leading to vision impairment to be detected.