The page provides a comprehensive collection of recommended articles, research and statistics on cataracts in the UK. Just click on the tabs below to find data on the prevalence of cataracts in the UK and worldwide, an overview of the condition and treatments available, recommended guides and research from the Royal College of Ophthalmologists, the Royal National Institute of Blind People, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) and the NHS. We also provide a list of all approved medicines used for cataract surgery and useful contact. Finally, if you scroll down to the bottom of the page you will be able to see interactive charts illustrating the prevalence of cataracts in the UK by local authority.
- Cataract Statistics
- Cataract Overview
- Recommended Articles
- Cataract Surgery Medicines
- Helpful Contacts
- Stats References
UK Cataract Statistics
- Approximately 330,000 cataract operations are performed each year in England alone.
- It is estimated that 30% of people 65 years or older have a visually impairing cataract in one or both eyes.
- 10% of people 65 or over had already had cataract surgery.
- 95% of cataracts are age-related, usually after age 40.
- Approximately 40% patients undergo cataract surgery on both eyes.
- Approximately 4-5% of patients require general anaesthesia to undergo cataract surgery.
- Average expected rates of cataract surgery are approximately 530 per 100,000 (0.53%) population or 3200 per 100,000 (3.2%) for those over 65 years old per year.
- Some populations have a much higher prevalence of cataract. For instance, 77% of British people originating from the Indian Subcontinent aged 42 years or older have cataracts.
- There is a threefold variation in the number of people having cataract surgery across England due to differences in health commissioning policies.
- 9 in every 10 cataract surgery commissioning policies contained criteria that followed “neither national guidance nor scientific evidence.”
- Over 50% of commissioners have arbitrary thresholds to restrict access to cataract surgery .
- It is estimated have an incremental cost per quality adjusted life year (QALY) of £13,172 over an individual’s lifetime (assuming an anticipated lifespan of 10 years following surgery).
- Phacoemulsification (removal of the cataractous lens using ultrasound) is the standard surgical technique and is used in over 99.7% cataract operations in the NHS.
Worldwide Cataract Statistics
- Cataracts is the leading cause of blindness in middle and low income countries.
- It is the second leading cause of visual impairment after refractive errors (uncorrected refractive errors such as myopia, hyperopia or astigmatism: 43%, cataracts: 33%, glaucoma: 2%).
- Cataracts effects 24 million Americans age 40 and older.
- By age 80, more than 50% all Americans have cataracts.
- More than 95% of surgeries are successful with fewer than 5% of cases experiencing complications such as inflammation, bleeding, infection and retinal detachment.
- The US spends $10.7 Billion per year treating cataracts. The costs include medical costs for diagnosed disorders, medical costs attributable to low vision, vision aids, vision assistive devices and adaptations and direct services including special education and assistance programs.
What Causes Cataracts
As we get older the the protein in our lens, which is normally perfectly arranged to let light pass through and keep the lens clear, may start to clump together and start to cloud in a small area of the lens. This clouded area may grow over time making vision more blurred.
Age, diabetes mellitus, corticosteroid use, female gender, socio-economic status, ethnicity, smoking and alcohol are all cataract risk factors.
There are several types of cataracts including nuclear, cortical, posterior subcapsular and mixed. Nuclear cataracts result in progressive opacification of the central lens, typically causing impaired distance vision. Cortical and posterior subcapsular cataracts typically cause disabling glare, even before visual acuity is markedly impaired and can progress rapidly.
Surgery is currently the only effective treatment for cataracts. This surgery involves the replacement of the natural lens being replaced by a clear intraocular lens implant. The benefits of the surgery are lifelong unless negated by other eye disease.
Phacoemulsification (removal of the cataractous lens using ultrasound) is the standard surgical technique and is used in over 99.7% cataract operations in the NHS. Those who do not qualify for NHS treatment can get the treatment done privately in many clinics across the UK.
Cataract Surgery Cost Effectiveness
The evidence suggests cataract surgery is generally highly cost effective, even for those who have mild visual impairments due to cataracts. It is estimated have an incremental cost per quality adjusted life year (QALY) of £13,172 over an individual’s lifetime (assuming an anticipated lifespan of 10 years following surgery). Overall cataract surgery is reported to be comparable to hip replacement in cost effectiveness.
Access To Cataract Surgery
There is currently a wide variation in access to cataract surgery across England due to differences in health commissioning policies. A recent study found 9 in every 10 cataract surgery commissioning policies contained criteria that followed “neither national guidance nor scientific evidence.”
Half of commissioners were found to have restricted access to cataract surgery by using clinical thresholds and 1 in 3 made no allowance for second eye surgery. Accessing quality cataract surgery on the NHS really a postcode lottery at the moment.
Additionally, there is almost a threefold variation in the number of people having cataract surgery across England, with rates ranging from 285 to 804 per 100,000 population which cannot be fully explained by variations in known risk factors for the development of cataract.
Publisher: Royal College of Ophthalmologists & Royal National Institute of Blind People
Publisher: The Royal College of Ophthalmologists and the Royal National Institute of Blind People
Publisher: NHS Choices
Publisher: Laser Eye Surgery Hub
Publisher: UK Government
Publisher: National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE)
Publisher: The Royal College of Ophthalmologists & The Royal National Institute of Blind People
Medicines for Cataract Surgery
Below is a list of medicines for cataract surgery than can be bought without a prescription.
- (a brand of Dexamethasone Sodium Phosphate)
- (a brand of Prednisolone Sodium Phosphate)
Minims tetracaine hydrochloride
- (a brand of Tetracaine Hydrochloride)
- (a brand of Tropicamide)
- (a brand of Acetylcholine Chloride)
- (a brand of Prednisolone Acetate)
- Prednisolone acetate
- Prednisolone Sodium Phosphate
- (a brand of Prednisolone Sodium Phosphate)
- Proxymetacaine hydrochloride
Royal College of Ophthalmologists
- 17 Cornwall Terrace, London NW1 4QW
- 020 7935 0702
Royal National Institute of Blind People
- 105 Judd Street, London WC1H 9NE
- 0303 123 9999
1. Coronini-Cronberg S, Lee H, Darzi A, Smith P. Evaluation of clinical threshold policies for cataract surgery among English commissioners. J Health Serv Res Policy. 2012 Oct;17(4):241–7.
2. Royal National Institute of Blind People. Surgery deferred. Sight denied. Variation in cataract surgery provision across England. 2013 Jul;
3. Coronini-Cronberg S., Bixby H, Laverty AA, Watcher RM, Millett C. English National Health Service’s Savings Plan May Help Reduce The Use of Three “Low-Value” Procedures. Health Aff Proj Hope. 2015 Mar 1;34(3):381-9.
4. The NHS Atlas of Variation 2010. Map 12. [Internet]. 2011 [cited 2013 Jun 1]. Available from: http://www.rightcare.nhs.uk/atlas/qipp_nhsAtlas-LOW_261110c.pdf
5. The Royal College of Ophthalmologists. Cataract Surgery Guidelines 2010 [Internet]. 2010 [cited 2013 Oct 17]. Available from: https://www.rcophth.ac.uk/standards-publications-research/clinical-guidelines/
6. Bourne RRA, Stevens GA, White RA, Smith JL, Flaxman SR, Price H, et al. Causes of vision loss worldwide, 1990–2010: a systematic analysis. Lancet Glob Health. 2013 Dec;1(6):e339–e349.
7. Jaycock P, Johnston RL, Taylor H, Adams M, Tole DM, Galloway P, et al. The Cataract National Dataset electronic multi-centre audit of 55 567 operations: updating benchmark standards of care in the United Kingdom and internationally. Eye. 2007;23(1):38–49.
8. Rauf A, Malik R, Bunce C, Wormald R. The British Asian community eye study: outline of results on the prevalence of eye disease in British Asians with origins from the Indian subcontinent. Indian J Ophthalmol. 2013 Feb;61(2):53–8.
9. Day A, Donachie PHJ, Sparrow JM, Johnston RL. The Royal College of Ophthalmologists’ National Ophthalmology Database Study of Cataract Surgery: Report 1, Visual Outcomes and Complications. Eye. Accepted, pending publication.
10. Minassian DC, Reidy A. Future Sight Loss UK (2): An epidemiologic and economic model for sight loss in the decade 2010-20. [Internet]. [cited 2014 Jan 6]. Available from: http://www.rnib.org.uk/sites/default/files/FSUK_2.pdf
11. Health & Social Care Information Centre. Hospital Episode Statistics [Internet]. [cited 2014 Feb 22]. Available from: http://www.hscic.gov.uk/hes
12. Office for National Statistics. 2011 Census, Population and Household Estimates for the United Kingdom [Internet]. 2010 [cited 2013 Nov 20]. Available from: http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/publications/re-referencetables.html?edition=tcm%3A77-270247
13. Reidy A, Minassian DC, Vafidis G, Joseph J, Farrow S, Wu J, et al. Prevalence of serious eye disease and visual impairment in a north London population: population based, cross sectional study. BMJ. 1998 May 30;316(7145):1643–6.
14. Scanlon PH, Foy C, Malhotra R, Aldington SJ. The Influence of Age, Duration of Diabetes, Cataract, and Pupil Size on Image Quality in Digital Photographic Retinal Screening. Diabetes Care. 2005 Oct 1;28(10):2448–53.
15. Sach TH, Foss AJE, Gregson RM, Zaman A, Osborn F, Masud T, et al. Falls and health status in elderly women following first eye cataract surgery: an economic evaluation conducted alongside a randomised controlled trial. Br J Ophthalmol. 2007 Dec;91(12):1675–9.
16. Busbee BG, Brown MM, Brown GC, Sharma S. Cost-utility analysis of cataract surgery in the second eye. Ophthalmology. 2003 Dec;110(12):2310–7.
17. Hiratsuka Y, Yamada M, Murakami A, Okada AA, Yamashita H, Ohashi Y, et al. Cost-effectiveness of cataract surgery in Japan. Jpn J Ophthalmol. 2011 Jul;55(4):333–42. 2
18. Lansingh VC, Carter MJ, Martens M. Global cost-effectiveness of cataract surgery. Ophthalmology. 2007 Sep;114(9):1670–8.
19. Lansingh VC, Carter MJ. Use of Global Visual Acuity Data in a time trade-off approach to calculate the cost utility of cataract surgery. Arch Ophthalmol. 2009 Sep;127(9):1183–93.