Visual Impaired

Visual impaired or sight loss

Globally, it is estimated that approximately 1.3 billion people live with some form of distance or near vision impairment. People with vision impairment are more likely than those without to experience higher rates of poverty and disadvantage. Population growth and ageing will have an impact on the number of people needing eye care in the future. Globally, the majority of vision impairment is avoidable. There are effective interventions to prevent eye diseases, as well as prevent, delay or reverse vision impairment. Vision rehabilitation helps to improve functioning for people with an irreversible vision impairment.

Source: World Health Organisation (WHO)


  • Wakefield has an estimated population of 1,006 people registered severely sight impaired (Blind) and 1,367 people registered sight impaired (partially sighted).
  • National figures suggest that approximately 29% of all persons registered blind will have an additional disability that may compound their lifestyle; 1.3% will suffer from a mental health problem and 17.6% will have another physical disability; 2.4% will also have a learning disability (Ophthalmology HNA, 2010).
  • With regards to distance vision; 188.5 million have mild vision impairment, 217 million have moderate to severe vision impairment, and 36 million people are blind (1). With regards to near vision, 826 million people live with a near vision impairment (2).
  • Population growth and ageing will increase the risk that more people acquire vision impairment.
  • Globally, it is estimated that approximately 1.3 billion people live with some form of vision impairment.
  • Globally, the leading causes of vision impairment are uncorrected refractive errors and cataracts.
  • Approximately 80% of all vision impairment globally is considered avoidable.
  • The majority of people with vision impairment are over the age of 50 years.

The Population

Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), predict that there are over 2 million people in the UK with sight loss; with 47% of the vision impaired population being over the age of 80. This number is projected to more than double by 2039, and it is estimated that the number of people living with sight loss will rise from 2 million to 4 million by 2050. RNIB suggest that the annual cost of sight loss in the UK amounted to a minimum of £6.5 billion in direct health care and indirect costs, such as reduced employment.

Source: RNIB Annual Report and Accounts 2017/18, unless stated otherwise.

Eye Health Needs Assessment: This document is not specific to Wakefield, but it is a good representation of the districts population etc.

People who experience sight loss (formerly labelled; ‘blind and partially sighted’), are now referred to as sight impaired and severely sight impaired. There are guidelines about the level of sight loss to define which of these two categories a person is certified. There are many causes of sight loss, which could include one or more of the below examples:

  • injury or infection,
  • genetic or age-related causes, and
  • conditions such as cataracts, glaucoma, obesity and/or diabetes.

The table below shows the Wakefield population aged 18+ predicted to have a serious visual impairment, including people aged 65 and over predicted to have a moderate or severe visual impairment by age, and people aged 75 and over predicted to have registrable eye conditions, projected to 2021.












Source: PANSI and POPPI

The Challenges

Visual impairment disproportionately affects peoples’ quality of life; particularly the elderly who are within a higher age range, as a result of the deterioration in functional ability over time. RNIB predict that the incidence of sight loss will increase in line with an increasing aging population and with an increase in underlying causes of sight loss, such as obesity and diabetes.

Unmet need in visual problems (based on the definition found in the lifestyle survey) increases with age, although the percentages in men of all ages (except post-75) are higher. While there is not sufficient evidence to suggest why this may be the case, there is evidence at a national level that men are often reluctant to enter into treatment – particularly where preventative treatment is concerned.

The below demonstrates the current position in Wakefield in relation to our Yorkshire and Humber neighbours across several of the key visual impairment indicators. Wakefield is currently similar than the England average for many indicators (those indicators coloured yellow).

You can click on the “trends” option below to explore the trends in the various measures.

Source: Public Health England

Service Provision

Early intervention has been identified as a key element in preventing vision loss at a local and international level. For those people with vision loss, research has highlighted the need for accessible information, rehabilitation services and equipment, which can maximise independence. These services are critical in ensuring that people with vision loss are able to interact with the built environment, maintain physical and physiological health, and participate in their community.

Source: Vision 2020 and McLaughlan, 2008

In England, Royal National Institute of Blind (RNIB) works to offer help and support for anyone affected by sight loss.


Visual Impairment in the Elderly: Impact on Functional Ability and Quality of Life
Universal eye health: a global action plan 2014–2019
Eye Health Needs Assessment