The Economic Cost and Burden of Eye Diseases and Preventable Blindness in Ireland

Study on impact and burden of blindness

A health economic study analysing the impact and burden of blindness and the most prevalent eye diseases (diabetic retinopathy, wet AMD, cataract, glaucoma) in Ireland.

  • 75% to 80% of blindness is preventable (1)
  • Ageing population: As the Irish population ages, the impact of vision loss will grow substantially in the future
  • More than 220,000 people in Ireland are blind or vision impaired (1)
  • Blindness affects 13,845 individuals in Ireland
  • 123 million workdays are lost per year in Europe, and 2.1 million healthy days are lost per annum  in Ireland (2)
  • 5 people per week became blind in Ireland between 2010 and 2013 – approximately 260 per annum (2)
  • €.2.5billion:Vision impairment and blindness is expected to cost more than €.2.5billion by 2020 (1)
  • Healthcare costs for the main eye diseases are €65.1 million and for blindness €3.7million per year
  • €205 million: The financial cost to the departments of health, social protection and finance was €205 million in 2010 (3)

The economic cost of blindness and vision impairment (3)

  • Productivity losses = 20%
  • Health costs = 42%
  • Informal costs =38%
  • Informal care: Day-to-day care for blind people, e.g. by relatives or friends.
  • Health costs: Healthcare systems costs e.g. hospitalisation, GPs, medical services, medications, research. Productivity losses: From reduced employment.
  • Economic cost = healthcare cost + productivity costs + informal care.

By investing in these cost-effective interventions some types of vision loss may be avoided.

  • Screening for diabetic retinopathy and access to treatment, if treatment is required
  • Treatment with anti-VEGF for wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
  • Screening for cataracts and access to surgery when needed
  • Cost effective interventions can reduce economic costs by up to €76 million

The National Vision Coalition is an alliance of healthcare professionals, those working in the sight loss community, and, most importantly, service users: NCBI (Chair); Fighting Blindness (Chair); Irish College of Ophthalmologists; Association of Optometrists Ireland; Diabetes Ireland; Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind;ChildVision; Mark Cahill, RVEEH; Dr Maureen Hillery, HSE; David Keegan, Mater Hospital; Gerry Kerr, Service User Representative; and Irene Reid, National Rehabilitation Hospital.


All data is from The Economic Cost and Burden of Eye Diseases and Preventable Blindness in Ireland, with the exception of the following references:

(1)  Framework to Adopt a Strategic Approach for Vision Health in Ireland (Nov 2012).

(2)  The Cost of Preventable Blindness

(3)  The Cost of Sight Loss (May 2011)