This site is intended for health professionals only

Increase in sight loss expected

There is expected to be a 25% rise by 2020 in the number of people in the UK who are suffering from a condition that can cause blindness, according to research.

The leading cause of sight loss in the western world is age-related macular degeneration (AMD), but only half of adults are aware of it.

People also do not know that diet and smoking can lead to the eye disease, a poll of more than 4,000 people for the College of Optometrists found.

As people are living longer, the number of cases of AMD in the UK will increase by one quarter in the next decade, according to research which is published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology.

More than 600,000 people suffer from AMD in the UK at present, and 239,000 are estimated to lose their sight due to the condition by the end of this year.

By 2020, more than 750,000 people are likely to have the condition, with more than 290,000 losing their sight in that year, according to the predictions.

In the College of Optometrists' survey, only 36% of smokers knew of the link with eye disease and only half of all people were aware that a healthy diet can help cut the risk of AMD.

Dr Susan Blakeney, optometric adviser to the college, said: "Research suggests that a diet rich in leafy green vegetables, brightly coloured fruits and vegetables and oily fish may help prevent AMD.

"Smoking also doubles your chances of developing the condition so quitting can also reduce your risk.

Copyright © Press Association 2011

British Journal of Ophthalmology