Campaigning to protect eye health

The UK’s eye health is deteriorating. Every day 100 people start to lose their sight and experts predict that this figure is expected to get worse over the next 20 to 30 years. So what can be done? Francesca Marchetti, chairwoman of National Eye Health Week, explains how the campaign aims to protect the nation's sight


Good eyesight is an important part of overall wellbeing and it is vital to ensure we can retain our independence and quality of life as we get older. Yet many of us rarely think about the importance of caring for our eyes to prevent us from losing our sight in the future.

In fact 20 million of us fail to have our eyes checked once every two years, as recommend, and one in ten have never had an eye examination. Yet sight tests are an important health check. In some cases they can detect the early stages of eye conditions, even before there are noticeable symptoms, and sight loss may then be avoided.

The worrying truth is that many of us only go to see our optometrist when we are aware that something is wrong and then, in many cases, the damage has already been done.

National Eye Health Week seeks to change this by raising awareness among the public about the need to look after their eye health and to get their eyes regularly tested every two years.

The campaign aims to make sight tests a normal part of our cycle of regular health checks, such as going to the dentist or getting our blood pressure checked. A sight test can also uncover other health problems, such as diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol.

The worrying truth is that many of us only go to see our optometrist when we are aware that something is wrong and then, in many cases, the damage has already been done

The National Eye Health Week campaign also aims to improve the nation’s sight by promoting a number of other ways we can keep our eyes healthy. Did you know that smoking increases the risk of blindness? If you’re a smoker then this is another good reason to kick the habit as current smokers are four times more likely to develop macular degeneration, the UK’s leading cause of sight loss, compared to past smokers or non-smokers.

In addition, other simple lifestyle changes can protect our eye health, such as eating a diet full of dark green leafy vegetables and oily fish. It is also important to protect our eyes from the sun by wearing CE-marked sunglasses.

Vision Matters marks the start of National Eye Health Week so why not go and book you and your family an eye health check or attend a National Eye Health Week event taking place near you.

Go to www.visionmatters.org.uk or visit your local optician to find out more about how you can take care of your eyes.

CAMPAIGN DIARY

Main events

September 17: Eye Health Bus Tour – begins High Street, Scunthorpe

September 18: Eye Health Information Day – Worthing

September 19: Welsh Eyecare Conference – Cardiff University

September 20: Eye Clinic – Abergele Hopsital, Abergele

For full details of events taking place visit visionmatters.org.uk

FIGHT FOR SIGHT

‘Be a best dressed carrot’

Fight for Sight, the UK’s leading charity dedicated to funding pioneering research to prevent sight loss and treat eye disease, is hosting its annual Carrots NightWalk in London on the night of Friday, September 21. Each person who takes part in either the six or fifteen-mile walk will be helping researchers find new ways to make sight loss a thing of the past. And there’s even a chance for walkers with a fondness for fancy dress to win a prize for Best Dressed Carrot. To find out more about how to get involved in the Fight for Sight Carrots NightWalk and to help bring hope to millions of people worldwide living without sight, please visit www.fightforsight.org.uk/carrots or call 0207 264 3900.