Your life and eyes 4 min read

What are the leading causes of blindness?

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Your sight is precious to your everyday life, and the thought of losing it can be a scary one. It’s important that you understand some of the best ways to look after your eyes, in order to avoid experiencing vision loss. Even just a simple eye examination every 2 years can be the difference between healthy eyes and suffering vision problems.

With that in mind, do you know what the leading causes of blindness are? Would you know how to recognise that you are developing an eye condition? In our latest blog, we take a look at some of the leading causes of blindness and how they could be prevented.

Vision loss in the UK and around the world

In the UK alone, around 250 people start to lose their sight every day; the equivalent of 1 person every 6 minutes. In 2018, it was reported that approximately 6 million people were living with sight-threatening eye conditions in the UK.

Woman with visual impairment walking along the street with cane

Globally, around 2.2 billion people suffer from vision impairment or blindness. Despite this, it is estimated that around half of sight loss is actually avoidable.

Vision impairment is classified into two groups; distance and near presenting vision impairment. Each person’s experience of sight loss may vary on a number of factors, including availability of prevention and access to rehabilitation. There are particular groups in society that are at higher risk than others when it comes to vision problems. For instance, those later in life or children who were born prematurely.

What are the main causes of blindness?

The two main causes of sight loss are uncorrected refractive errors and cataracts. This is closely followed be age-related macular degeneration (AMD), glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.

These eye conditions can all be detected by your optician during a routine eye examination, and if caught early they can be treated effectively. This is why it is so important to visit your optician every 2 years and have your vision and eye health checked.

Uncorrected refractive errors

Uncorrected refractive errors, such as myopia, hyperopia or astigmatism, can all cause severe visual impairment. However, with the right corrective lenses, they can be avoidable. Refractive errors can sometimes go unnoticed or uncorrected, often in children where they do not recognise that something is wrong.


Cataracts usually affect those aged over 65 but it is also a common side effect of conditions such as diabetes. Cataracts occur when the lens of your eye becomes less transparent and can cause your eyesight to appear cloudy.

Diagnosing cataracts is usually straightforward, and it can be detected during the type of tests you experience at a regular check-up with your optician. Surgery is a highly effective treatment for cataracts and is one of the most common procedures in the UK.

Age-related macular degeneration

It is not known what causes macular degeneration, except that it is closely linked to age. While it is a painless condition, you will begin to lose central vision as the macula in your retina begins to deteriorate.

Image of back of eye highlighting the macula

AMD can make day-to-day activities increasingly difficult, but it could be between 5 and 10 years before vision loss significantly impacts your daily life. This gradual loss of vision can mean it often goes unnoticed for some time.

Your optician may detect AMD early during an eye examination, or you may begin to notice blurry central vision. If this happens, you should see your GP or optician. There is currently no cure for AMD, but there are a number of treatments available to help make life a little easier. The earlier it is detected the more effective management can be.


Glaucoma happens as a result of a build-up of fluid and pressure in your eye. A regular eye examination will pick up signs of glaucoma through a tonometry test, which measures intraocular pressure.

The damage caused by glaucoma can be irreversible, so it is crucial that the condition is diagnosed and treated as early as possible. There are a whole host of treatments available for the different types of glaucoma,

If someone else in your family has suffered from glaucoma, your optician may recommend that you attend more frequent eye examinations.

Diabetic retinopathy

If you suffer from diabetes, you are at higher risk of developing problems with your vision due to diabetic retinopathy. This is a condition whereby the blood vessels in the eye are damaged by high blood glucose levels.

Early signs of diabetic retinopathy are usually picked up during a diabetic eye screening. If you notice your vision getting steadily worse or blurred, or you feel pain in your eyes, you should speak to your GP or optician.

Being aware of diabetic retinopathy if you have diabetes can be instrumental in preventing any future eye problems.

As you can see, some of the most damaging eye conditions can be prevented or treated if they are picked up early enough. By understanding the symptoms of conditions like glaucoma or myopia, you can take positive steps towards prolonging your vision and avoiding sight loss.  

Wearable assistive devices

If you or a loved one suffers from significant visual impairment there are solutions available that can offer support. Wearable assistive technology devices, such as the OrCam MyEye 2, can attach to your glasses and help you to read text, identify objects, recognise a familiar face, tell the time and even detect colours.


Wearable technology for low vision

Solutions similar to glasses for low vision that can offer support


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