Two million people in the UK are living with sight loss. An extra half a million could lose their sight by 2020. Francesca Marchetti, Chair of National Eye Health 2013, explores the eye health challenges facing the UK.
Focus on eye health
Poor eye health places a huge economic and social burden on the UK — in 2013 alone it’s estimated that sight loss will cost the economy almost £8 Billion. Yet, according to research conducted by the RN- IB, as much as half of all sight loss is avoidable.
By far the biggest risk to the nation’s eye health is the lack of regular sight tests. Twenty millions of us fail to have our eyes checked. Sight tests are an essential health check. Not only can they detect common eye conditions such as glaucoma before they cause irreversible vision loss, they can also uncover signs of general health problems including diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol.
Free eye test can lower your risks
Getting your sight tested is easy — there are qualified optometrists on almost every high street; the test takes around 30 minutes and for many of us it’s absolutely free. More than 30 million people in the UK are eligible for free sight tests paid for by the NHS, and millions more are entitled to tests and prescription eye-wear paid for by their employer.
Regular sight tests are particularly important for children, the over 60s, people with a family history of eye disease, those with underlying systemic health conditions, such as diabetes and people of certain ethnic origins who have an increased risk of eye disease.
You have the power to change
Poor lifestyle choices pose another big threat to the UK’s eye health. Sight loss linked to obesity and smoking is a growing trend amongst younger generations. What you eat, how much you weigh and your alcohol consumption can all have an affect on your eye health.
Poor lifestyle choices pose another big threat to the UK’s eye health.
Using photochromic lenses or CE-marked sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun whenever the UV Index rises to three or more, and not smoking can also help keep your eyes and vision healthy.
For those whose sight loss is un-avoidable there are some important medical developments on the horizon.
Fight for Sight is funding pioneering research into some of the most common causes of sight loss whilst advances in stem cell therapies, laser treatments, ophthalmic drugs and lens technologies are all helping make sight loss a thing of the past.