Purpose: The last complete report on causes of blindness in England and Wales was for the data collected during April 1999-March 2000. This study updates these figures, with data collected during April 2007-March 2008.
Methods: In England and Wales, registration for blindness and partial sight is initiated with certification by a consultant ophthalmologist with the consent of the patient. The main cause of visual impairment was ascertained where possible for all certificates completed during April 2007-March 2008 and a proportional comparison with 1999-2000 figures was made.
Results: We received 23,185 Certificates of Vision Impairment (CVIs), of which 9823 were for severe sight impairment (blindness) (SSI) and 12,607 were for sight impairment (partial sight) (SI). These totals were considerably lower than the numbers certified in the year ending 31 March 2000. In 16.6% of CVIs, there were multiple causes of visual impairment as compared with 3% of BD8s in 2000. Degeneration of the macula and posterior pole (mostly age-related macular degeneration (AMD)) contributed to vision impairment in 12,746 newly certified blind or partially sighted.
Conclusions: AMD is still by far the leading cause of certified visual loss in England and Wales. Proportional comparisons are hampered by the increasing use of multiple pathology as a main cause of visual impairment, which is believed to have arisen owing to the change in certificate used for data collection. These figures are not estimates of the total numbers newly blind in the UK because not all those entitled to certification are offered and or accept it, but they do nevertheless document the number of people who are deemed to be sufficiently sight impaired to warrant support and have been both offered and accepted it. This is usually the case when no further ophthalmic intervention is thought likely to be of benefit in terms of restoring or improving vision.