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How big is the burden of visual loss caused by age related macular degeneration in the United Kingdom?


Aims: To predict the burden of blindness, partial sight, and visual impairment (binocular visual acuity 6/18 or less) due to late stage age related macular degeneration (AMD) in the ageing population of the United Kingdom.

Methods: A systematic review, followed by a request for data, was used to establish a pooled prevalence of AMD and corresponding visual loss. Prevalence figures were applied to the UK population. Using UK population trends, the future burden of AMD over the coming decade was established.

Results: Pooled data from six studies showed that the prevalence of visual loss caused by AMD increased exponentially from the age of 70–85 years of age, with 3.5% (95% CI 3.0 to 4.1) having visual impairment beyond the age of 75 years. The authors estimate that there are currently 214 000 (95% CI 151 000 to 310 000) with visual impairment caused by AMD (suitable for registration). This number is expected to increase to 239 000 (95% CI 168 000 to 346 000) by the year 2011. Currently there are 172 000 (95% CI 106 000 to 279 000) and 245 000 (95% CI 163 000 to 364 000) with geographical and neovascular AMD, respectively.

Conclusions: Estimates of visual impairment agree with official statistics for the number registered partially sighted or blind, caused by AMD, and are well below other figures often cited. Although these estimates are associated with wide confidence intervals (CI) and a number of caveats, they represent the best available data, which can be used to guide health and social care provision for older people in the UK setting. Implications for low vision services are outlined.

  • age related macular degeneration
  • blindness
  • partial sight
  • prevalence

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