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Call for opticians to offer lifestyle prescriptions

Embargoed until: 00:01 23 September 2019

Call for opticians to offer lifestyle prescriptions

Eye Health UK[1] is calling on opticians to include lifestyle advice on their optical prescriptions in a bid to cut the number of people in the UK living with avoidable sight loss.

The appeal, which coincides with the launch of National Eye Health Week (23 - 29 September), has already received backing from the UK's biggest opticial chain and independent practitioners.

David Cartwright Chairman of Eye Health UK, said:

"A million people in the UK are living with avoidable sight loss severe enough to make everyday activities like driving a car impossible. Your lifestyle can have a serious impact on your eye health regardless of your genetic predispositionand is linked to all four major causes of sight loss: macular degeneration, the UK's leading cause of blindness, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and cataracts, yet people are unaware that there is an association."

Reaching out to people with lifestyle advice that encourages them to make simple changes to their diet, smoking habits and activity levels will play a critical role in saving people's sight in the future."

Optometrists are perfectly placed to deliver general health advice and support the Government's mission to ‘put prevention at the heart of the nation's health'[2]. Public trust in advice given by opticians is high. Eighty-eight per cent of UK Adults say they trust health advice from opticians  either a ‘great or ‘fair' deal[3].

According to new research just 15 per cent of Brits think your exercise regime can affect eye health[4], despite evidence that being physically active can reduce your risk of visual impairment by 58 per cent versus somebody with a sedentary lifestyle[5] .

Whilst 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[6], making smoking directly responsible for around 120,000 cases of AMD in Britain today[7].

Lifestyle advice on optical prescriptions and eye examination summaries would not only increase public awareness of the link between lifestyle habits and eye health but also signpost people towards the support they need to make lifestyle changes and improve their general well-being[8].

Commenting on why they are giving the initiative their backing:

Giles Edmonds, Clinical Services Director at Specsavers said: "Sight is the sense people fear losing the most, so whatever we can do to help our customers maintain the health of their eyes and see better for longer is always our priority."


Tushar MajithiafromLunettes Opticians which has practices in Sleaford, Grantham and Ruskingtonsaid: "We usually provide eye health advice as part of the eye examination but patients often don't remember all the information given to them. It is important to reinforce the message by including this information on the optical prescription, as well as providing information leaflets."


The charity hopes that the lifestyle prescription initiative can be rolled out in optical practices over the next            12 months.



For further information or to arrange interviews, please contact:

Rachel Robson National Eye Health Week Press Office

Tel: 07743 227977  Email:  Twitter: @myvisionmatters


Notes to editors

The attached map highlights areas of the UK at increased risk of avoidable sight loss as a result of low uptake of regular sight tests and poor lifestyles. Compiled by Experian[9]. Contact for a list of the towns and cities at most risk.

National Eye Health Week's six simple sight savers

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 impaired colour vision.

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.

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. Obesity also puts you at increased risk of diabetic retinopathy and damage to blood vessels in the eye caused by excess body weight has been linked to glaucoma.

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 pressure can help control conditions such as glaucoma.

Cover up. Exposure to UV light can increases your risk of developing macular degeneration and cataract. In fact, frequent use of sunglasses has been associated with a 40 per cent decrease in the risk of posterior sub-capsular cataract.[10] 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.

Be screen smart. On average, we spend more than eight hours a day staring at a screen so it's no surprise that 85 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[11].

National Eye Health Week takes place between 23 - 29 September 2019. It is supported by a wide range of public health bodies, charities, organisations and individuals aims to raise awareness of the importance of good eye health and the need for regular eye tests for all


[1]Eye Health UK is a register charity [registered charity number 1086146]



[4] Eye Health study conducted by OnePoll amongst 2,000 UK adults, August 2019


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

[7]Calculated using Macular Society AMD prevalence data

[8]Illustration of what advice might look like on a prescription"Smoking causes sight loss. It significantly increases your risk of common eyediseases and impairs colour vision. For help to quit visit"

[9]The 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 plusHealth and Social Care Northern Ireland data. For a full list of citations contact

[10]Delcourt C et al. Light exposure and the risk of corticol, nuclear and posterior subcapsular cataracts: the Pathologies OculairesLiees a l'Age (POLA) study. Arch Ophthalmol, 2000: 118:385-92