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BMJ. 1998 May 30;316(7145):1643-6.

Prevalence of serious eye disease and visual impairment in a north London population: population based, cross sectional study.

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Southampton General Hospital, Southampton SO16 6YD.



To estimate the magnitude of serious eye disorders and of visual impairment in a defined elderly population of a typical metropolitan area in England, and to assess the frequency they were in touch with, or known to, the eye care services.


Cross sectional survey using two stage cluster random sampling.


General practices in north London.


Random sample of people aged 65 and older, drawn from a defined population of elderly people registered with 17 general practice groups.


Proportions and population prevalence estimates were determined for visual acuity, assessed with the person's own spectacles (if any), classified into four categories: prevalence of cataract, age related macular degeneration, and refractive error causing visual impairment and of definite primary open angle glaucoma; and status of contact with eye services.


1547 of 1840 (84%) eligible people were examined. The population prevalence of bilateral visual impairment (visual acuity <6/12) was 30%, of which 72% was potentially remediable. 92 of these 448 cases (21%) had visual acuity <6/60 ("blindness") in one or both eyes. Prevalence of cataract causing visual impairment was 30%; 88% of these people were not in touch with the eye services. The prevalence of vision impairing, age related macular degeneration was 8% and of glaucoma (definite cases) was 3%. Three quarters of the people with definite glaucoma were not known to the eye services.


Untreated visual impairment and eye disorders affect a substantial proportion of people aged 65 years and older. These findings should contribute to the setting up of future strategies for preservation of sight and eye health services in general.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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