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New health map highlights areas of the UK at greatest risk of sight loss

A new map produced by Eye Health UK, the charity responsible for running National Eye Health Week (24 – 30 September), highlights areas of UK – including Barking and Dagenham, Reading, Swansea, Nottingham and Newcastle ­– where poor lifestyle habits and inadequate health screening are putting residents at serious risk of sight loss.

Eye Health Map 2018

There are a million people in the UK currently living with ‘avoidable’ sight loss – leaving them unable to do things such as drive. Forecasters predict this figure could rise by a third by 2030, if action isn’t taken now[1].

Prevention and early diagnosis of common eye conditions are key to reducing the number of people suffering sight loss unnecessarily” explains David Cartwright Chairman of Eye Health UK “however, in towns and cities like Bristol, Liverpool, Luton and Manchester we are seeing a worrying number of people failing to take up their entitlement to free NHS sight tests and displaying high levels of smoking and obesity – two lifestyle factors linked to sight loss.”

Lifestyle habits impact your eye health regardless of your genetic predisposition.[2] Being physically active has been shown to reduce your risk of visual impairment by 58 per cent versus somebody with a sedentary lifestyle[3]; whilst a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30+ has been linked to the four most common causes of sight loss: macular disease, glaucoma, cataract and diabetic retinopathy. [4]

Research published in the British Medical Journal reveals 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.[5] Making smoking directly responsible for around 120,000 cases of AMD in Britain today.[6]

Poor uptake of regular eye tests is another big risk to the nation’s eye health. Almost 14 million (13.8) of us fail to have our eyes checked once every two years, as recommended, and one in 10 of us have never had our eyes checked.[7]

Cathy Yelf, CEO of the Macular Society said: “Age-related macular degeneration is the biggest cause of blindness in the UK, affecting 600,000 people. By 2050 this number is expected to double. It is an urgent public health issue. Regular eye tests can detect Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) early, which is crucial in preserving vision and the quality of life of patients.”

“If you are told you have early AMD, there are some things you can do to reduce the likelihood of the disease progressing.” says Yelf. “If you smoke, stop. Smokers are four times more likely to develop AMD than non-smokers. Smoking kills the cells of the retina, reduces the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the eye and damages blood vessels. Smoking causes AMD to progress faster and makes treatment less effective.

“Take moderate exercise to maintain a healthy weight and normal blood pressure and eat a healthy diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables, especially green, leafy vegetables. These contain nutrients that are thought to be important to eye health.”

The introduction NHS funded eye tests for everyone in Scotland in April 2006 has helped reduce the risk of avoidable sight loss north of the border where uptake of eye tests has risen by around 30 per cent over the last decade. However, health inequalities still exist here with high prevalence of poor lifestyle habits linked to poor eye health.

 

Towns and cities of the UK with the highest risk of avoidable sight loss due to low uptake of eye tests and high prevalence of poor lifestyle

Barking and Dagenham

Barnsley

Belfast

Bolton

Brent

Brighton and Hove

Bristol

Bury

Camden

Coventry

Crawley

Denbighshire

Derby

Derry and Strabane

Doncaster

Ealing Eastbourne

Enfield

Gateshead

Gloucester

Gosport

Gravesham

Greenwich

Hackney

Haringey

Harrow

Hastings

Havant

Havering

Hounslow

Isle of Wight

 

Islington

Knowsley

Lambeth

Lewisham

Liverpool

Luton

Manchester

Medway

Morton

Newcastle upon Tyne

Newham

North Tyneside

Nottingham

Oldham

Oxford

 

Poole

Portsmouth

Reading

Redbridge

Rochdale

Rotherham

Rushmoor

Salford

Sefton

Sheffield

Slough

South Bucks

South Tyneside

Southampton

Southwark

St Helens

Stevenage

Sunderland

Sutton

Swansea

Swindon

Tameside

Thanet

Tower Hamlets

Waltham Forest

Weymouth and Portland

Wigan

Wrexham

Wycombe

 

[1] State of the Nation’s Eyes report 2017 [http://rnib.org.uk/state-nation-2017]

[2] Kristin J. Myers et al. Ophthalmology Journal Vol 122

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4047137/

[4] The body mass index (BMI) is a measure that uses your height and weight to work out if your weight is healthy. The BMI calculation divides an adult's weight in kilograms by their height in metres squared.

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

[6] Calculated using Macular Society AMD prevalence data

[7] Generation Eye Report, Eye Health UK sponsored by Specsavers

 

* This map was created for Eye Health UK by Experian. It correlates key factors (eye test uptake, smoking, exercise, obesity, healthy eating and alcohol consumption) associated with avoidable sight loss. Factors were weighted as follows: eye test uptake (50%); lifestyle behaviours (50%) (smoking - 20%, exercise - 20%, obesity - 20% healthy eating - 20% and alcohol consumption – 20%). Data sources include lifestyle variables from the Experian’s Mosaic geo-demograhic segmentation tool, Health and Social Care Information Centre statistics; Information Services Division, NHS Scotland data; NHS ophthalmic statistics from Welsh Govt plus Health and Social Care Northern Ireland data. For a full list of citations contact rachel@visionmatters.org.uk

 

Published : 24 September 2018