[PDF] Diabetic eye disease : A UK incidence and revalence study

Royal National Institute of Blind People - RNIB
Royal National Institute of Blind People
Publication date:
28 March 2017


Diabetic retinopathy is one of the leading causes of visual impairment and blindness in the UK, particularly among working age people. In the UK, within 20 years of diagnosis, nearly all people with Type 1 and almost two thirds of people with Type 2 diabetes have some degree of retinopathy. Prior to this research, there were no UK-wide population-based measures of incidence and prevalence.

To enhance our understanding of diabetic retinopathy in the UK, RNIB commissioned the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine to estimate the incidence and prevalence of diabetic retinopathy.


The aims of the research were to analyse a large patient database with millions of records and ascertain:

  • The prevalence and incidence of diabetic retinopathy in the UK by sub group
  • Whether diabetic retinopathy is more or less common in specific groups of people; specifically whether incidence and prevalence varies with age, sex, geographical location, ethnicity and socio-economic status
  • An estimated time it takes to develop visual impairment following onset of diabetic retinopathy
Key Findings
  • In 2014, the prevalence of diabetic retinopathy was 54.6% in people with Type 1 diabets and 30.0% in people with Type 2 diabetes
  • The overall prevelance of diabetic retinopathy has been increasing steadily over the last 10 years. The increase is likely to be related to increasing prevalence of Type 2 diabetes and potentially increased ascertainment through nationwide screening programs.
  • Higher rates of deprivation and minority ethnic groups were found to be associated with a higher risk of severe diabetic retinopathy amongst patients with Type 2 diabetes, confirming findings from previous studies.
  • The research shows evidence of significant regional disparities in the spread of the condition. It could be that these differences are related to variations in screening program delivery, and therefore diagnoses across the country.