Our sight is precious. You only have to close your eyes for a moment to appreciate how important your vision and eye health is. And, for 78 per cent of us, sight is the sense we’d least like to lose.

Yet, in Britain today a million people are living with avoidable sight loss and the Royal National Institute for Blind People (RNIB) estimates this number could rise by a third by 2030.

David Cartwright, Chair of National Eye Health Week (18 – 24 September) highlights some of the steps we should all be taking to reverse this trend in avoidable sight loss.


1. Essential eye tests


Failing to have regular eye tests once every two years, unless advised otherwise by your optometrist, is probably the biggest threat to our eye health. Almost 14 million Brits (13.8) don’t have regular eye tests, despite them being essential health checks.

"We only visit our optometrist when something is wrong."

Not only can an eye test detect eye conditions, such as glaucoma, years before you notice a change in your vision; they can also uncover signs of general health problems including diabetes and hypertension.

The worrying truth is many of us only visit our optometrist when we are aware something is wrong and sadly this can mean the damage is already done.

A routine eye test takes around 30 minutes and for millions of us it’s absolutely free – paid for either by the NHS or an employer.


2. Treating minor eye conditions


Your optometrist is also best placed for timely diagnosis and treatment of minor eye conditions.

A new service currently being introduced in some areas, will see accredited optometrists offering NHS appointments for conditions like red eye, or flashes and floaters, helping to relieve pressure on GPs and A&E departments.


3. Lifestyle counts


Lifestyle choices pose another big threat to the nation’s eye health. Your diet, weight, activity levels and alcohol consumption can all affect your eye health.

Protecting your eyes from the sun’s UV rays and not smoking can also help keep your eyes and vision healthy.


National Eye Health Week and the future...


National Eye Health Week seeks to raise awareness of the need to take care of your eyes and make eye tests as much a part of your healthcare regime as having dental check-ups or smear tests.

The Central Optical Fund (the body that supports optometry projects), Optical Confederation and College of Optometrists have published a landmark report predicting how technology could shape optometry and help to improve eye health over the next 15 years. There are also some important medical developments on the horizon for the further million people whose sight loss is currently unavoidable as the charity, Fight for Sight, funds vital research into causes of sight loss.


For more information about National Eye Health Week and caring for your eyes go to visionmatters.org.uk or visit your local optician.