Blindness and Low Vision in New Zealand – Latest statistics

It is estimated that there are 30,000 individuals in New Zealand affected by blindness or low vision (low vision refers to people who have limited useful sight, even with their best pair of glasses).

Blindness in New Zealand by Age Group

0-21: 2,700
22-64: 8,100
65-79: 4,500
80+: 14,700

Most Common Eye Conditions in New Zealand

The most common eye conditions underlying blindness and low vision in New Zealand are age-related macular degeneration (AMD), diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and cataracts. Significant numbers of Kiwis are affected by all of these – note though, that only a minority of Kiwis affected by each condition will also have blindness or low vision, as these conditions are generally progressive (vision deteriorates over time).

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)

The leading cause of blindness and low vision is AMD. It is estimated that 207,000 Kiwis have AMD. It affects 35% of Blind Foundation clients. There are two types of AMD – dry and wet. 90% of AMD patients have dry AMD, 10% have wet AMD.

It is projected that by 2030, 352,000 Kiwis will have AMD.

Diabetic retinopathy

About 330,000 Kiwis have diabetes, and approximately 20-25% of those have diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness and sight loss in New Zealanders under 50.

Almost all patients with type 1 diabetes and 60% of patients with type 2 diabetes will acquire diabetic retinopathy within 20 years of having the disease.

Glaucoma

Glaucoma is estimated to affect some 70,000 Kiwis. This makes it the second most common cause of blindness and low vision in New Zealanders over 65. However, half of those with the condition are not aware they have it.

Cataracts

About 370,000 are estimated to have cataracts. Cataracts are the most common correctable eye disease causing blindness and sight loss in Kiwis. 30,000 cataract surgeries are performed every year in New Zealand. In over 95% of cases, surgery is successful.