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#20Ways Smoking Increases Your Risk Of Sight Loss


Every day in the UK 100 people start to lose their sight, yet, over half of all sight loss is avoidable.[1]

Smoking is the BIGGEST modifiable risk factor of sight loss with smokers risking blindness even if they are not genetically pre-disposed to it.[2]

Any amount of smoking, even light or occasional smoking, can affect your eye health. So, don’t be blind to the risks, take a look at our list of #20Ways smoking damages your eyes and increases your risk of sight loss…


#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 British Medical Journal[3] 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[4]

#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


Now you know the facts – what are you waiting for? If you’re a smoker make No Smoking Day (9 March 2016) the day you quit for good.


Visit for FREE advice and local support to help you stop smoking – it could just save your sight



[1] RNIB

[2] Joint Associations of Diet, Lifestyle, and Genes with Age-Related Macular Degeneration, Kristin J. Meyers et al. Ophthalmology journal, Sept 2015

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

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



Published 8 March 2016

Social Success for National Eye Health Week 2015

Early indications show National Eye Health Week 2015 has been a success. Whilst a full evaluation of the Week, which saw over 2,500 opticians, pharmacies, GPs, charities, schools, businesses and individuals take part, is still to be completed initial results show how the Week was successful in communicating important eye health messages to millions of Brits.


David Cartwright, Chair of the National Eye Health Week said: “Over the past seven days our social media campaign alone had a reach in excess of 25 million. Press coverage has also exceeded previous years. Cuttings are still coming in in droves but some of the highlights to date include broadcast coverage on Good Morning Britain and the Chris Evans Breakfast Show as well as stories published in every national daily newspaper.


This media activity highlighted the importance of having regular sight tests and how lifestyle choices can affect eye health to a mass audience whilst events and activities hosted by our amazing network of supporters provided local communities up and down the country with individual eyecare advice and information.”


David continues: “"What is really great about the Week is the sense of engagement and interest the news stories and support material generates with members of the public.  I'm sure it's that which leads to people taking more care of the eyes"


Organisers of the Week would like to thank its official partners including ASDA Opticians, Boots Opticians, Butterflies Healthcare, Vision Express and Lloyds Pharmacy for helping to make the Week possible.


A full evaluation of this year’s campaign, including a review of supporter events will be released later this Autumn.


Published : 30 September 2015

Use-by dates for eye make-up

When was the last time you looked at the use-by date on your mascara? Or checked whether your eye shadow or foundation was still usable?

It’s something so few of us consider, yet we really should; make-up is known to contribute to blepharitis, a non-contagious condition that occurs when the glands around your eyelashes become blocked or infected. Certainly, if you develop the condition, it is advised that you avoid make-up until it has gone.

The Cosmetic, Toiletry & Perfumery Association stipulates that cosmetic products must show a period after opening time. This relates to the amount of time that the product will remain in good condition after it has been used for the first time.

But why? According to the Association, once opened, cosmetics are exposed to dirt and microorganisms, such as bacteria, yeasts and moulds, that are found in the air, on the skin and on applicators and brushes. Microorganisms can get into products where they may be able to live and grow.

So, what’s the advice? Well, it will vary across products and brands but a general rule of thumb – which might surprise you – includes:


> Mascara and liquid eyeliner – discard after four months

> Liquid foundation and creamy eye shadow – discard after six months

> Powder eye shadow – 12 months

> Pencil eyeliner, lip liner, powder blusher/bronzer – can last up to two years


Extract from Vista magazine


Published : 25 September 2015

Essential make-up advice for good eye health

illustration of woman applying mascara


Many women could be lining themselves up for unnecessary - and unpleasant - eye problems simply by applying their make-up without following a common-sense routine warns the College of Optometrists.

Eyesight has been voted* the nation’s most valued sense and, to coincide with National Eye Health Week, the College of Optometrists has issued some practical advice to help ensure the millions of make-up wearers across the UK minimise the potential harm to their eyes.

Dr Susan Blakeney, clinical adviser to the College of Optometrists, says: “Talking about good make-up hygiene and habits may seem trivial, but we’re keen to encourage people to take some simple steps, such as hand-washing and taking notice of expiry information, that may help minimise potential risks to eye health. The human eye is pretty resilient, but poor hygiene can lead to unpleasant infections. And the modern-day phenomenon of applying make-up on the journey to work undoubtedly increases the risk of scratching your cornea. This may not only lead to discomfort, but may also put the cornea at greater risk of infection”.

Any product applied to the eyelids or lashes, including eye make-up and make-up remover or cleanser, can potentially affect the eyes. Here are Dr Blakeney’s top tips:

Get the basics right
Wash and dry your hands thoroughly before applying eye make-up or contact lenses. Avoid touching your eyes wherever possible.

Keep an eye on the expiry information
A survey of UK make-up users by the College of Optometrists** found that over half (53%) don’t check the instructions to see how long they should keep their mascara for, with almost a fifth (19%) admitting they didn’t even know that expiry information even existed on such products.

Have a look for this information, usually shown on the eye make-up packaging, and try not to use it beyond that period if possible. Throw it away immediately if it changes consistency or colour, or if you notice a strange smell coming from it.

Don’t apply on the go
Although we often see people expertly applying their makeup on their way to work, unfortunately optometrists see patients who have sustained a corneal abrasion or damaged their cornea (the clear, protective covering at the front of your eye) by accidentally poking themselves in the eye with a mascara wand during a sudden bump or jolt. This can be unpleasant and may leave your eye more vulnerable to infection because the surface is injured.

Keep it to yourself
You wouldn’t share your toothbrush with anyone else, yet over half (53%) of 16-24 year olds admitted to sharing their mascara with friends and family.

Make up and contact lenses
It’s best to put your contact lenses in before you put your make up on. Water-soluble - rather than waterproof – make-up is preferable as if it gets into your eye it will dissolve in your tears and not get trapped under your contact lens. You shouldn’t wear eyeliner on the ‘wet’ part of the edge of your eyelids, as it may block the glands that produce part of your tears. Instead, you should put it on the skin, outside your lashes.

Remove eye make-up at the end of the day
Ensure that all eye make-up is removed at the end of every day to minimise a build-up on your eyelid.

Dr Susan Blakeney concludes: “By following these simple steps and paying a bit more attention to the health of your eyes and eyelids, you stand a better chance of spotting any problems as early as possible. If your eyes or eyelids start to feel itchy or sore, or if their appearance (without make-up) changes to look red, swollen or watery, avoid using make-up and go to see your optometrist.”


*Survey was undertaken by Censuswide on behalf of the College of Optometrists, September 2014. 2,024 people were surveyed.

**Consumer survey undertaken by Censuswide on behalf of the College of Optometrists, May 2015. 1,039 women, who regularly wear mascara, were surveyed.


Published : 24 September 2015

Kids thinks eating crips makes their tears taste salty

From salty tasting tears because they’ve eaten ready salted crisps, choosing their own eye colour when they are older, to disappearing when they blink - kids really do say the funniest things when it comes to their eyes, according to new research from Boots Opticians.

The research revealed:

• Kids wish their eyes had superpowers - 62% wish they could see through walls, 30% wish they could see through people and 34% want to be able to see what’s behind them

• Over a third (36%) think the whole world goes dark when they close their eyes - 10% even think they disappear

• 16% believe blinking turns the lights off and a further 7% are convinced time stands still

• 1 in 10 think their parents chose their eye colour - 5% think it’s a decision they can make once they are old enough

• 25% think the black dot in the middle of the eye is an empty hole or a small camera

• 10% said their tears taste salty because they’re made from sea water - 15% said it was because they had eaten a packet of ready salted crisps


For advice on caring for kids eye health check out our Sunbeams campaign

Poor lifestyle increases risk of sight loss regardless of genetic predisposition

Eye health experts today marked National Eye Health Week (21 – 27 September) with a warning that unhealthy lifestyles are fuelling an alarming increase in avoidable sight loss as a new study* published in the journal Ophthalmology reveals lifestyle factors increase the risk of sight loss regardless of a person’s genetic make-up.

The research, led by scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, used healthy lifestyle scores based on diet, exercise patterns and smoking to assess a person’s risk of suffering Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) – the UK’s leading cause of blindness**.

Results of the six-year study reveal the odds for AMD associated with having both poor lifestyle scores and a high genetic predisposition to the disease was three times greater compared with people with healthy lifestyles and a high genetic predisposition whilst a healthy lifestyle alone was shown to cut your risk of suffering the condition by more than a fifth.

Smoking was found to pose the biggest modifiable risk to sight loss as the study found smokers who carry high risk genetic alleles and have smoked at least one packet of cigarettes for at least seven years and have poor exercise patterns and poor diets were four times more likely to have AMD than people who did not have genetic risk factors, ate a healthy diet, and got 10 hours/week of light exercise or eight hours of moderate activity.

Commenting on the report David Cartwright, optometrist and Chair of National Eye Health Week said: “Half of all sight loss is avoidable yet forecasters predict the number of people living with sight loss in the UK will double to four million by 2050 and 1 in 6 of Britons will become blind or partially sighted by the age of 65. These figures are shocking when you consider that having a regular sight to identify issues early, including leafy greens and fish in your diet, being more active and quitting smoking could significantly reduce your risk of sight loss, even if you have a genetic risk of eye disease.”

David continues: “Over the next seven days National Eye Health Week will seek to inspire people to make small lifestyle changes that could make a big difference to their future eye health.”

National Eye Health Week’s six simple sight savers

1. Quit smoking. Smokers have a significantly greater risk of sight loss than non-smokers.

Toxic chemicals in tobacco smoke can damage the delicate surface and the internal structure of the eye. This can lead to an increased risk of many eye conditions including AMD; nuclear cataracts; thyroid eye disease; dry eye and poor colour vision.

2. Eat right for good sight. Most of us have no idea that what we eat can affect how well we see, however, eye-friendly nutrients found in many fruit and vegetables and fatty acids derived from fish, nuts and oils can all help protect your sight.

Vitamins B and E can help protect against cataracts whilst Omega-3 fish oils help maintain healthy blood vessels inside the eye.

3. Watch your weight. More than half of all British adults are overweight however maintaining a healthy weight helps preserve macula pigment density, which in turn, helps protect the retina against the breakdown of cells and the onset of AMD.

Damage to blood vessels in the eye caused by excess body weight has also been linked to glaucoma.

4. Get fit. Aerobic exercise can help increase oxygen supplies to the optic nerve and lower any pressure that builds up in the eye.

Reducing intraocular ‘eye’ pressure can help control conditions such as glaucoma and ocular hypertension.

5. Cover up. Exposure to UV light increases your risk of developing cataracts and macular degeneration.

According to the World Health Organisation UV damage is the biggest modifiable risk factor of cataract development.

Always wear sunglasses when the UV index rises above three and check your sunglasses filter AT LEAST 99 per cent of UVA and UVB light. Look out for a CE or British Standard or UV 400 mark when choosing your sunglasses as this indicates they provide adequate UV protection.

6. Be screen smart. On average we spend a staggering 35 hours a week staring at a computer screen so it’s no surprise that 90 per cent of us say we experience screen fatigue – tired or irritated eyes, blurred vision, headaches and poor colour perception.

Avoid eye strain by using the 20-20-20 rule, especially if you’re using a computer for long periods of time. Look 20 feet in front of you every 20 minutes for 20 seconds.

And, don’t forget to book a sight test during National Eye Health Week if you haven’t had one in the last two years.


* Joint Associations of Diet, Lifestyle, and Genes with Age-Related Macular Degeneration, Kristin J. Meyers et al. Ophthalmology journal, Sept 2015

** There are currently 600,000 people in the UK affected by AMD. (Source: Macular Society)


Published : 21 September 2015

Seven days to focus on eye health blog

Author: David Cartwright, Chair National Eye Health Week

Our ageing population and unhealthy lifestyles are fuelling a steep decline in our vision. Right now almost two million people in the UK are living with sight loss and forecasters predict a further half a million could lose their sight by the year 2020.

Focus on eye health
Poor eye health places a huge economic and social burden on the UK. In 2013 sight loss cost the economy almost £8 Billion.

Yet, according to research conducted by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) half of all sight loss is avoidable. By far the biggest risk to eye health is poor uptake of sight tests. Twenty million of us fail to have our eyes checked once every two years, as recommended, and one in 10 of us have never had an eye examination.

Essential health check
Sight tests are an essential health check. Not only can they assess your visual acuity and detect 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. Getting your sight tested is easy – there are qualified optometrists on almost every high street 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 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.

Lifestyle matters
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. A poor diet, a high Body Mass Index (BMI), failing to protect your eyes from UV and a sedentary lifestyle can all have damaging affect your eye health.

As can smoking – smokers have a substantially increased risk of suffering common sight threatening eye diseases such as macular degeneration and cataracts. For those whose sight loss is unavoidable there are some important medical developments on the horizon. Eye research charities like Fight for Sight and the National Eye Research Centre are 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.

Whatever you do this Week (21 – 27 September) make sure do something to ensure your eyes and vision stay healthy now and in the future.

For more advice on looking after your eyes take a look at the National Eye Health Week Top Tips leaflet.


Published : 20 September 2015



Eye Health supplement published in the Sunday Times

Sunday Times supp cover

The eye health supplement published in The Times today (14 September) explains why everyone should have regular sight tests and highlights some of the simple things we can all do to keep our eyes and vision healthy. Find out more here


Published:  20 September 2015



Vista puts public in picture on eye health

Vista magazine cover banner


National Eye Health Week has teamed up with RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People) to publish Vista, a 60-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, make-up and style advice 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.”


Fazilet Hadi, RNIB Director of Engagement, said: "Vista is a great way of sharing the latest news and advice, and it also gets across the serious message that people need to make their eye health a priority. Up to 50 per cent of sight loss could be avoided and there are things people can do to protect their vision including having regular eye checks."


Copies of Vista are being sent out in the National Eye Health Week supporter resource packs and will be distributed at official National Eye Health Week events taking place across the country between 21 and 27 September.


View a digital version of Vista magazine here


Published: 14 September 2015

Get involved in NEHW - it's simple, easy and best of all FREE!

With just six weeks until the start of National Eye Health Week 2015 organisers are urging healthcare professionals to get involved and help inspire the public to take better care of their eyes.


David Cartwright, Chair, National Eye Health Week comments: “There are lots of ways individuals and organisations can participate in the Week and encourage everyone to have regular sight tests and make simple lifestyle changes that benefit their vision and eye health.


From signing up to the National Eye Health Week Twitter Thunderclap – an automated tweet which will be posted simultaneously on all registered Twitter accounts at 11am on 21 September – to using our supporter resource pack materials to reach out to your local community, taking part is easy and best of all free.”


A range of new supporter resource materials will be published on the Vision Matters website later this week, including flyers on men’s and women’s eye health; an Amsler grid and guide to dry eyes. Updated editions of the existing National Eye Health Week supporter resources will also be published.


Many supporter events have already been planned, including the RNIB ‘Eye Pod’ visiting Sutton High Street as part of an eye health awareness event organised by RNIB, Sutton Vision and the Thomas Pocklington Trust.


A numberplate challenge hosted by The Village Opticians in Prestwich a ‘Look After Your Eyes’ event at Harrogate Library and a spectacle cleaning station run by Browetts Opticians in Warwick.


For those still undecided about how they will celebrate National Eye Health Week an event handbook has been published on the Vision Matters website.


More details about the National Eye Health Week campaign will be released over the coming weeks in the meantime though here’s a short checklist of things you can do to prepare for the UK’s biggest celebration of vision and good eye health.


1) Help get eye health trending on Twitter by joining our thunderclap. Sign up with your Twitter and Facebook accounts at


2) Show your support by tying a National Eye Health Week twibbon to your Twitter, Facebook and other social media channels. For information visit


3) Register for your FREE supporter resource pack by sending your name, address and email details to


4) Set a date, plan your event or promotional activity and register it on the Vision Matters website


5) Post announcements about your plans on your website and social media channels. Use the hashtags #EyeWeek and #VisionMatters.


Published : 10 August 2015