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Trends in blind registration in the adult population of the Republic of Ireland 1996–2003
  1. C Kelliher1,
  2. D Kenny2,
  3. C O’Brien3
  1. 1Department of Ophthalmology, Mater Misericordiae University Hospital, Republic of Ireland
  2. 2National Council for the Blind in Ireland, Republic of Ireland
  3. 3Conway Institute of Biomolecular and Biomedical Sciences, University College Dublin, Republic of Ireland
  1. Correspondence to: Colm O’Brien Department of Ophthalmology, Mater Misericordiae University Hospital, Republic of Ireland; cobrien{at}mater.ie

Abstract

Background/aim: The Republic of Ireland has a centralised database of all registered, blind people in the country. The last study of the national blind register was undertaken in 1996. The current study sought, firstly, to investigate and identify any recent changes in the register composition. Secondly, there is concern that many eligible people are not appropriately registered. To examine this further, registration levels among patients attending an Irish outpatient ophthalmology clinic were determined.

Methods: Criteria for blind registration in Ireland are (1) a best corrected visual acuity of 6/60 or less in the better eye, or (2) a visual field subtending an angle of 20 degrees or less. The National Council for the Blind in Ireland (NCBI) is the sole custodian of a national registration database recording all eligible, registered people. This computerised database was analysed to provide information on the demographics and blind registration condition of those on the register in 2003. This information was compared with the results of the 1996 study. To assess the accuracy of the current register, the registration status of eligible patients attending the outpatient clinic of a busy, tertiary referral ophthalmology department, over a 9 week period, was studied.

Results: 6862 adults were registered as blind on the NCBI register in Ireland in 2003, representing an increase of 37% since 1996. The leading causes of registration were age related macular degeneration (ARMD) (25%), glaucoma (12%), and retinitis pigmentosa (7%). Comparing the 1996 and 2003 data, dramatic increases in the numbers registered caused by ARMD (from 812 to 1729 people, a 113% increase) and diabetic retinopathy (DR) (from 147 people to 323 people, a 120% increase) were found. The numbers registered as a result of glaucoma were relatively stable (795 in 1996 and 811 in 2003). A substantial drop, of 53%, was noted in the number of people registered as a result of cataracts, from 561 people to 261. Of the 672 new cases registered in 2003, ARMD accounted for 44%, glaucoma 13%, and DR 7%. Over the 9 week study period 75 patients, out of a total 2320 patients who attended the outpatient department, fulfilled the blind registration criteria. It was found that 21% (16 of 75) of the eligible clinic outpatients had not been appropriately registered.

Conclusion: An overall increase in adult blind registration of 37% in the Republic of Ireland was found between 1996 and 2003. There were large increases in registered blindness as a result of ARMD (113%) and DR (120%). A notable decrease in registration as a result of cataracts was discovered. Vigilance by clinicians is necessary to ensure that eligible patients are registered.

  • ARMD, age related macular degeneration
  • DR, diabetic retinopathy
  • NCBI, National Council for the Blind in Ireland
  • blind registration
  • Ireland
  • ARMD, age related macular degeneration
  • DR, diabetic retinopathy
  • NCBI, National Council for the Blind in Ireland
  • blind registration
  • Ireland

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