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Save the Date!

This year's National Eye Health Week (NEHW) will take place 18 – 24 September 2017.


Building on the success of the 2016 campaign, which saw thousands of healthcare professionals, organisations and charities join forces to transform people’s attitudes and behaviour towards looking after their eyes, this year’s awareness week will once again focus on promoting mass participation from national and regional stakeholders.


David Cartwright, Chair of Eye Health UK, the charity responsible for running the Week, said: “We hope to encourage everyone with an interest in vision and eye health to come together this September to promote engaging eye health messages.”


David continues: “Over recent years we have seen how NEHW can connect with people and promote positive action. Last year 39 per cent of UK Adults said they recalled reading, seeing or hearing NEHW media and 87 per cent of these (over 16 million people) said it had encouraged them to take better care of their eye health. We plan to harness the momentum we have created to make an even bigger impact in 2017.”


There are lots of ways individuals and organisations can get involved in the Week, from joining the NEHW mailing list and using the free resources to share advice about the importance of regular sight tests and how healthy lifestyle choices can benefit vision to sponsoring an activity or becoming an official partner of the Week.


To join the NEHW mailing list or for information about sponsorship opportunities please email


Further details about the 2017 campaign including its official partners and this year’s supporter resources will be announced in the coming weeks.


Published : 21 February 2017

National Eye Health Week 2016 Results

National Eye Health Week In Numbers

Smoke gets in your eyes - one in five cases of UK's leading cause of sight loss linked to smoking

As part of National Eye Health Week optometrists today (25 September 2016) warned that the relationship between smoking and sight loss is as strong as the link between smoking and lung cancer and urged smokers take up the Stoptober challenge [1].

According to research published in the British Medical Journal[2] as many as one in five cases of Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD), the UK’s leading cause of blindness, are caused by tobacco consumption. This means smoking is currently responsible for around 120,000 cases of AMD[3].

David Cartwright, chair of National Eye Health Week explains: “Despite there being a stronger link between AMD and smoking, than lung cancer and smoking Britain’s seven million smokers are largely unaware of the dangers. Fewer than 10% realise smoking can affect their eye health. This compares to 92% associating smoking with lung cancer and 87% identifying a link between smoking and the risk of heart disease[4].

Omar Hassan Head of Professional Services at Vision Express continues: “Smokers are up to four times more likely to suffer AMD than non-smokers and are likely to suffer from the condition earlier than non- smokers.”

Research shows the average age for a non- smoker to develop AMD is 74.4 years of age, five years later than smokers whose average age is 69.2 years[5]. Smokers are also likely to experience a more rapid progression of AMD and poorer treatment outcomes.

Tobacco smoke is composed of as many as 4,000 active compounds, which can damage the delicate surface and the internal structure of the eye.

Smokers are also at increased risk of other eye conditions such as nuclear cataracts; thyroid eye disease; dry eye and poor colour vision.

David Cartwright comments: “Having regular sight tests, once every two years unless advised otherwise by your optometrist, is vital for everyone but never more so than for smokers. Early detection of conditions such as AMD is essential to prevent avoidable sight loss.”

Eye health maps produced by National Eye Heath Week in conjunction with Vision Express have revealed hotspots of the UK where levels of smoking are high and uptake of sight tests are low leaving residents at increased risk of sight loss.

These hotspots include: The London Boroughs of Newham and Tower Hamlets, Birmingham, Knowsley, Cwm Taf, South Tynside, Corby, Bradford and Hull.

Omar Hassan concludes: “However there is some good news – if a patient stops smoking the risk of losing sight decreases over time so the sooner they stop the better for their vision. If you smoke why not try quitting during Stoptober. It could just save your sight.”


#20Ways smoking can affect your eye health

#1 Tobacco smoke causes biological changes in your eyes that can lead to poor eye health and loss of vision

#2 Cigarette smoke contains over 4,000 toxic chemicals that enter your eyes & increase your risk of sight loss by up to four times

#3 Tobacco chemicals damage the tiny blood vessels inside your eyes causing blockages and internal bleeding

#4 Tobacco chemicals interfere with the production of your tears – the tear film is important because it keeps the front of your eye healthy and helps your eyes focus clearly

#5 Smoking causes oxidative stress and damages your retina

#6 Tobacco reduces the amount of oxygen that reaches your macula. The macula is the part of the eye responsible for central, high-resolution vision

#7 Smoking is a key risk factor for Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD), the UK’s leading cause of blindness in the UK

#8 Research published in the British Medical Journal[6] suggests 1 in 5 cases of AMD are caused by tobacco consumption

#9 On average smokers develop AMD five years earlier than non-smokers

#10 Smoking is a major risk factor in the development of cataracts

#11 The risk of nuclear cataracts is three times greater in smokers than non-smokers

#12 Smoking is a significant risk factor for developing diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy is one of the top five causes of sight loss in the UK

#13 Smoking increases your risk of dry eye syndrome – the leading cause of eye irritation in over 65s

#14 Smoking is associated with the development of thyroid eye disease (TED). Smokers are up to 8 times more likely to suffer from this potentially sight threatening condition which affects up to 400,000 people in UK[7]

#15 Smokers have increased prevalence of colour vision deficiency

#16 Nicotine poisoning can make it difficult to clearly distinguish colours with a red or green hue

#17 Smokers are twice as likely to suffer Uveitis – a painful inflammation of the middle layer of the eye ­– than non-smokers

#18 Smoking increases the risk of contact lens wearers suffering corneal ulcers. If left untreated corneal ulcers can lead to severe vision loss and even loss of the eye

#19 Smoking in pregnancy affects the development of your unborn baby and increases the risk of your child having a squint

#20 It’s not just your eyes that suffer. Secondhand smoke increases the risk of your loved-ones suffering sight loss


For help and advice on how to quit visit



[2] British Medical Journal, Vol. 328, S. 537

[3] Calculated using Macular Society AMD prevalence data

[4] Perceptions of blindness related to smoking: a hospital- based cross-sectional study, G Bidwell et al.

[5] Ronald Klien et al, Arch Ophthalmol. 2008;126(1): 115-121

[6] British Medical Journal, Vol. 328, S. 537

[7] Estimate taken from National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)


Published : 25 September 2016


Generation Eye Report Published

The Generation Eye report looks at multi-generational attitudes to eye care in Britain and the impact this could have on future sight loss.



Click the report cover to read in full


Generation eye report cover



Published : 21 September 2016

1.6Million school-aged children estimated to be living with an undetected vision problem

More than one and a half Million (1.6Million) school–aged children in England could be living with an undiagnosed vision problem that impacts on their educational and social development according to new figures released by National Eye Health Week and Boots Opticians.[1]


With up to eighty to eighty-five per cent of our perception, learning, cognition and activities facilitated through vision[2] it’s clear that the quality of a child’s eyesight plays a vital role in his or her development, especially in their early years.


A recent study by a team of UK academics published in the British Medical Journal found a clear link between visual ability in young children and reading and writing levels[3]. Children with reduced visual acuity – a measure of how well we view detail – had significantly lower literacy development even when other factors – such as demographic, socio-economic and cognitive skills – were taken into account.


Poor vision in younger children is often due to the presence of Amblyopia (lazy eye) – a developmental disorder that leads to reduced vision. The human eye continues to develop until we reach about eight years of age giving just a small window of time where good vision can be restored through early detection and treatment. Unfortunately, there are few signs and symptoms to observe so detection is very difficult for parents, carers and teachers.


David Cartwright Chairman National Eye Health Week continued: “As a child’s eyesight is usually fully developed by the age of eight, regular sight tests, every two years unless advised otherwise by your optometrist, are crucial. Sight tests for all children in the UK are free and funded by the NHS – the only investment parents have to make is time.


Conditions such as squint or amblyopia can lead to lifelong problems so it really is a case of ‘After Eight is too Late’. If detected early amblyopia and squint can often be corrected and other visual problems such as childhood myopia can be managed effectively, yet, fifty per cent of parents with children aged eight and under have never taken their child for a sight test[4].”


Levels of Myopia (short-sight), which typically occurs in childhood between the ages of six and 13, have more than doubled over the last 50 years and currently affect around a fifth of all teenagers in the UK.[5]


It's often difficult to tell if your child is having problems with their eyes but some tell-tale signs that there could be something wrong include struggling to recognise colours and shapes; frequently bumping into things; not showing any interest in learning to read; not progressing or being disengaged at school; complaining about headaches and sitting very close to the TV.


You may also recognise some physical signs, including:


  • Rubbing eyes frequently
  • Squinting, head-tilting or closing one eye when trying to focus
  • One eye turning in or out
  • Blinking a lot
  • Excessive tearing
  • Red, sore or encrusted eye lids


With a wealth of clinical evidence emerging to suggest that lifestyle factors can play a role in keeping children’s eyes healthy, including the importance of outdoor play in preventing the onset of myopia,[6] National Eye Health Week has joined forces with Boots Opticians to launch a guide to help to care for your child’s eyes.


This digital resource includes seven ways to help keep kids’ eyes healthy, tell-tale signs your child could be struggling with their vision and common childhood eye conditions explained. There are also links to resources such as the Boots Opticians eye check story book, Zookeeper Zoe which contains a range of interactive eye check activities to help parents and carers understand if their child might need support with their vision.


Commenting on the collaboration Karl Thomas, Customer Director, Boots Opticians said: “We want every child in the UK to be as happy and healthy as possible. We’ve had overwhelmingly positive feedback about Zookeeper Zoe and we’re delighted with stories we’re hearing around the joy that Zoe’s story brings, be that the simple act of reading, or in raising parents’ awareness of vision needs that in turn are resulting in a vision correction for their child.”


 “Good eyesight can be so important for a child’s development, so we want to ensure their vision is the best it can be, which is why we are printing more copies of Zookeeper Zoe and encouraging parents to take their children for an eye test to ensure that their children reach their full potential.”


Despite the UK National Screening Committee (NSC) recommending, universal vision screening for all children between the ages of 4 – 5 years by an orthoptic-led service an estimated 200,000+ children will miss out on this basic screening in the 2016/17 academic year as fewer than a third of local authorities in England provide this service[7] and where it does exist screening has been found to be patchy.


David Cartwright concludes: “Regular eye checks performed on your local high street, by a qualified optometrist and paid for by the NHS are vital to ensure kids live well and fulfil their potential in the classroom.”


Regional estimates for the number of school-aged chidren with an undetected vision problem


























[1] Estimated using 2016 DfE School Census data and school vision survey conducted by Professor D Thomson, City University.  

   Median estimates used for purpose of this calculation

[2] Neuro-Optometric Rehabilitation Association

[3] Bruce A, Fairley L, Chambers B, et al. Impact of visual acuity on developing literacy at age 4 – 5 years: a cohort-nested  

  cross-sectional study. BMJ Open 2016

[4] Eyecare Trust State of the Nation’s Eyes Report

[5] Northern Ireland Childhood Errors of Refraction (NICER) study Ulster University and College of Optometrists 2016

[6] JAMA. 2015;314(11):1142-1148. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.10803

[7] College of Optometrists 2015

National Eye Health Week report finds Britain's eye health out of focus

MILLIONS are risking their eyesight by not getting regular eye tests – despite it being the sense they treasure the most, according to a report from National Eye Health Week and leading high street opticians Specsavers.

The Generation Eye Report1 found almost 14 million people in the UK are not having an eye test as recommended at least every two years, despite 55 per cent saying deteriorating vision is their biggest worry about getting older.

The research, unveiled on the first day of National Eye Health Week (19 to 25 September), investigated the value people place on their vision and the depth of knowledge in the UK about eye health. Based on a survey of more than 2000 UK adults it revealed three quarters (75%) of people had suffered poor eye health in the last 12 months and more than one in five (22%) said this had restricted or impaired their daily life. This is despite studies showing that nearly half of all cases of sight loss are preventable2.

David Cartwright, Chair of National Eye Health Week, says: ‘What our study found was that millions are totally in the dark when it comes to eyes and eye health.

‘National Eye Health Week aims to raise awareness of the importance of good eye health and the need for regular eye tests for all. An eye test at an opticians is quick and easy, and for a lot of people, including children and over-60s, is free on the NHS.

‘Poor eye health is affecting every aspect of daily life. This National Eye Health Week, our message is clear: people across the UK, of all backgrounds, age groups and genders need to recognise that our vision is both precious and fragile, and thus the risks to it need to be understood, accepted and addressed.’

Despite the number of people not getting regular tests, the report found deteriorating vision was people’s number one fear of getting old – ahead of illness (50%) and losing their hearing (32%).

Dr Nigel Best, Specsavers clinical spokesperson, says: ‘The Generation Eye Report makes startling reading. Millions are risking losing their sight unnecessarily because they fail to have regular sight tests and make poor life style choices

‘Half of all sight loss cases are preventable – and a simple eye test can be the first step in prevention.

‘Raising awareness and educating people on the importance of looking after their eyes through regular testing and better lifestyle choices is absolutely vital to addressing the nation’s eye health problems.’

The report focused on three key groups: 18 – 24 year olds (The Unseen Generation), their parents (New Presbyopes) aged between 45 and 54 and their grandparents aged 65 and over (The Low Vision Generation).

Worryingly it found those aged 18-24 were the group whose quality of vision or state of eye health had most restricted or impaired their daily life (36%), with around a third (32%) not having an eye test in the last two years.

The report found 80% of 45 – 54 year olds said they’d experienced problems with their eye health in the last year.

While 94% of over-65s wore prescription eyewear however almost a third (32%) didn’t know wearing the wrong prescription glasses or contact lenses could affect their eyesight.


Download the Report


1The Generation Eye report is based on the findings of a survey commissioned by National Eye health week and Specsavers. The survey was conducted by Atomik Research, in accordance with MRS guidelines and regulations, on a representative sample of 2002 UK respondents aged 18+ between 24 – 31 August 2016. All figures quoted in this release are from this study unless otherwise quoted.

2 Access Economics, 2009


Published: 19 September 2016

Vista magazine 2016 published

Vista banner


National Eye Health Week has teamed up with the Central Optical Fund to publish Vista, a 52-page consumer lifestyle magazine designed to raise awareness of the importance of regular sight tests and how lifestyle choices can affect eye health.


Edited by experienced consumer health journalist, Rachel Symonds, with contributions from leading healthcare experts, Vista brings together an inspiring mix of important eye care advice including features on the importance of regular sight tests, exclusive recipes, celebrity interviews, true life stories recounting people’s experiences of living with poor eye health, tips on how to be screen smart, a report on dementia and vision plus a round-up of the latest eye health news, quizzes and more.


David Cartwright, Chair of National Eye Health Week comments: “Vista is an exciting concept in public eye health promotion. By presenting important health messages in a stylish magazine format we hope to encourage more people to have regular sight tests and inspire them to make healthier lifestyle choices that reduce the risk of avoidable sight loss.”


Copies of Vista are available at National Eye Health Week supporter events nationwide and online.


View a digital version of Vista magazine


Published : 18 September 2016

Themes for National Eye Health Week 2016 Announced

Each day during National Eye Health Week 19 – 25 September will focus on a different theme...

Monday General eye health
Tuesday Children’s eye health
Wednesday Diabetic retinopathy
Thursday Sight after sixty
Fr-eye-day Fundraising day
Saturday Nutrition and the eye
Sunday Smoking and sight loss

Promotional resources for each of these themes can be downloaded from our Electronic Resource Centre

More information about plans for each day will be announced shortly.


Published : 4 September 2016

NEHW16 Supporter Resources Now Available to Download

The National Eye Health Week Electronic Resource Centre has now been refreshed with new and updated resources for 2016.


Published : 1 September 2016

NEHW 2015 In Review

Over 2,500 supporters took part in NEHW 2015. This compares to 1,998 in 2014. The supporter base also diversified with greater engagement through public health bodies and pharmacy. For example, Wiltshire Council ran vision screening and eye health promotion events across the county, whilst Newham Council’s Healthwatch team hosted a series of eye health events in libraries during the Week.


More than a thousand supporter events and activities took place between 21 and 27 September 2015 using the official resource pack materials which once again included posters, leaflets and cook book.


Events included a 34 marathon challenge run by Ed Bolton in aid of the Macular Society, Farm shop tastings, vision screening events, coffee mornings, talks, open days.


National Eye Health Week also published the second edition of Vista, a consumer lifestyle magazine packed with important eye health advice. Vista enjoyed a readership in excess of 200,000 whilst the online edition of the magazine accounted for a further 175,000 consumers.


Social media activity during NEHW 2015 had a reach of over 25 million and visits to , which was featured as Dr Miriam Stoppard’s website of the Week in her Daily Mirror column, were up 25 per cent year-on-year.


From discreet media placement on programmes such as The Chris Evans Radio 2 Breakfast Show to clearly branded news content in tabloid, mid-market and broadsheet papers syndications across the Sky News Radio Network and Dr Hilary Jones and Lorraine Kelly chatting about the Week on ITV’s Lorraine programme, National Eye Health Week achieved significant share of voice in the media.


During a four-week period spanning National Eye Health Week the media campaign generated 748 pieces of coverage and 146 million opportunities for the public to read see and hear positive eye care advice.


Twelve per cent of UK Adults said they recalled reading, seeing or hearing NEHW media and 77% of these said it had encouraged them to take better care of their eye health – including 1.5 million UK Adults saying they were encouraged to book a sight test for themselves or a family member*.


*Populus Consumer Analysis Study Commissioned by National Eye Health Week, conducted October 2015.