Cataract Statistics & Data

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.

Estimated Proportion Of People Living With Catracts In Each Local Authority

Press shift and move your mouse to navigate around the map – you can also zoom in and out. Click on a local authority name in the left hand column to highlight its circle. Click on the circles to see the % living with cataracts in that area. The size of the circles corresponds to the % value.

Sources for data

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:

5. The Royal College of Ophthalmologists. Cataract Surgery Guidelines 2010 [Internet]. 2010 [cited 2013 Oct 17]. Available from:

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:

11. Health & Social Care Information Centre. Hospital Episode Statistics [Internet]. [cited 2014 Feb 22]. Available from:

12. Office for National Statistics. 2011 Census, Population and Household Estimates for the United Kingdom [Internet]. 2010 [cited 2013 Nov 20]. Available from:

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.


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