Common causes of sight loss

Ageing eyes? Guide to the conditions that could affect your sight.
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RNIB estimates that around 50 percent of sight loss in the UK is avoidable or treatable. Right now as many as 250,000 people in the UK risk losing their sight simply because they don’t know they have glaucoma.

As we age the need for regular eye examinations (eye test) increases. Not only wil it ensure you have the correct prescription for your eyes, it will enable early detection of more serious conditions and could prevent needless anxiety and loss of sight.

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

• AMD is the leading cause of sight loss in the UK. Around 250,000 people have the condition.

• The part of the eye that is affected is called the macular, which is in the centre of the retina. This helps us see what is straight ahead of us, focus on detail and appreciate colour.

• AMD causes distortion of central vision so it makes detailed work such as recognising faces or reading this page very difficult.
• There are two forms of AMD – wet and dry. Dry AMD can cause a gradual deterioration in sight over many years. Wet AMD can lead to sight loss in as little as three months if left untreated.

• Following a two year campaign spearheaded by RNIB, anti-VEGF drugs that treat wet AMD, have recently been made available on the NHS. Whilst there is currently no treatment for dry AMD, it is important to eat a diet rich in green leafy vegetables and fruit, rich in anti-oxidants in order to reduce the risk of further vision loss.


• There are two main types of glaucoma – chronic and acute. The optic nerve of the eye is damaged, often as a result of raised eye pressure.

• Glaucoma damages the peripheral vision first and up to 40 percent of your sight may be lost before you notice a difference.

• An eye test is the only way to detect glaucoma in its early stages.

• Advanced cases of glaucoma can result in tunnel vision so that you may be able to recognise a face in front of you but not notice someone standing beside you.

• African-Caribbean people, those with a close relative with glaucoma and older people are at a much higher risk of developing chronic glaucoma.

• If caught early enough glaucoma can, in nearly all cases, be successfully treated and no sight need be lost.


• A cataract is a clouding of the part of the eye called the lens.

• This causes blurred, dim and sometimes yellow-tinged vision as light cannot pass directly through the lens to the back of the eye.

• Most cataracts develop in older age and are extremely common. More than half of people over the age of 65 can expect to be affected by cataracts at some stage in their lives.

• A simple operation which normally lasts about 45 minutes can replace the cloudy lens with a new plastic lens and restore sight.

Diabetic Retinopathy

• Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness among the working age population in the UK.

• Every year about 720,000 people with diabetes develop some form of retinopathy.

• Damaged blood vessels in the eye can result in distorted, patchy vision

• Regular eye tests for people with diabetes are crucial as they will detect early changes to the retina, which in many cases can then be treated and sight could be saved.

For more information about sight loss or how to keep your eyes healthy, visit or call the RNIB Helpline on 0845 766 9999.

Last modified: June 10, 2021

Written by 5:34 pm Eye health in later life