Sight is the sense that nine out of 10 people most fear losing, according to the findings of a survey released on Friday. The UK Vision Strategy - developed by a major new eye health and sight loss alliance - is calling for action to prevent their fears becoming a reality.
Lesley-Anne Alexander, chair of the group leading the development of the UK Vision Strategy and chief executive of the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), said: "Nine out of 10 people in the UK tell us that sight is the sense they most fear losing. But, despite being one of the richest nations in the developed world, we aren't doing enough to protect it. Sight loss increases with age and the UK has an aging population, so the number of people losing their sight is set to double in the next few decades if we don’t intervene now. We're sitting on a sight loss time bomb!"
"The UK Vision Strategy enables us to build on past progress and the eye health and sight loss sector is committed to working together with the UK governments to improve the eye health of the nation. We all need to take responsibility both professionally and personally - to improve eye health, eliminate avoidable sight loss and enhance the quality of life of people who have lost some or all of their sight."
The survey, commissioned for the launch of the UK Vision Strategy, also found a shocking lack of awareness of the leading cause of blindness in the UK, with less than one in six people correctly identifying the condition: age-related macular degeneration. Helping people understand how to best look after their sight and prevent avoidable sight loss is one of the key aims of the UK Vision Strategy which calls for increased investment in public awareness campaigns.
Jo Webber, deputy policy director at the NHS Confederation, which represents 95% of NHS organisations, added: "Around 50% of sight loss in the UK is avoidable or treatable, so we can't afford to be complacent. Right now as many as 250,000 people in the UK risk losing their sight simply because they don't know they have glaucoma. Thousands more are struggling to live with such low levels of vision that they would qualify as blind or partially sighted, unaware of the range of options widely available to restore their vision. The UK Vision Strategy sets out a clear way forward to address these problems so we can improve the nation’s eye health and do our best to make sure people do not continue to lose their sight because treatable conditions are going undetected."
Nick Astbury, representing The Royal College of Ophthalmologists on the group leading on the development of the UK Vision Strategy, said: "We need to work together to tackle sight loss in this country. We need to create a society where we do look after the health of our eyes and key to this is having access to the right information, appropriate services and the best support. We can increase early detection through regular eye tests which can correct vision with an updated prescription and also detect serious conditions which could lead to blindness if left untreated. We can also build on progress such as reduced waiting times for cataract operations by improving access to timely sight saving treatment for everyone.
"On an individual level, most of us don't understand enough about our eye health or the lifestyle choices we make that can have a massive impact on our eye health. Simply knowing that giving up smoking and keeping our weight within a healthy range will give us all the best chance of safeguarding our sight and in some cases half a person's chances of developing a sight condition that could lead to blindness."
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