Rt Hon Baroness Betty Boothroyd raises awareness of eye research underfunding

1 August 2018

The Rt Hon Baroness Boothroyd is launching a Fight for Sight campaign to raise awareness Fight for Sight Logoof eye health and the need for vital eye research.

The former Speaker of the House of Commons will kick off the campaign by appearing in a BBC Radio 4 appeal which will be broadcast on Sunday 5 August 2018.

She will be raising awareness of sight loss and highlighting the impact that it has on over two million people in the UK, a figure that is set to double by 2050. Despite this, eye disease is a desperately under-funded area of research in the UK. Fight for Sight figures show that eye research only received 1% of overall public grant spending in 2016/17.

Rt Hon Baroness Boothroyd, said: “I’m supporting Fight for Sight because this is an issue close to my heart and I know the impact that sight loss can have on people and their families.

“The answer lies in research – research breakthroughs have already led to pioneering treatments that have changed lives and yet this remains a desperately underfunded area. Most people will know someone affected by sight loss so I hope as many people as possible will hear the appeal and feel able to donate towards much needed research.”

Rosemary Hallsworth, who is eighty years old, also features in the broadcast. Three generations of her family have lived with age-related macular degeneration, a condition that is the leading cause of sight loss in the UK.

She said: “I remember my mother living with macular degeneration and how it robbed her of the ability to perform everyday tasks like embroidery and preparing meals. I now have difficulty with things like reading and sewing and I worry about my independence as my eyesight deteriorates. Recently my daughter has been diagnosed too. My worry is for the future and for my granddaughters. I fully support more research being done so that they won’t be affected by this disease.”

Michele Acton, Chief Executive of Fight for Sight said: “Fight for Sight’s vision is simple. We believe in a future everyone can see and we want to stop sight loss. Our main way of achieving this is through funding pioneering research.

“We currently have eight million pounds invested in over 160 research projects but still can only fund one in every eight research applications. Gene therapy, stem cells, drug treatments and technology offer hope for the future – but there is much more work to be done.”

Fight for Sight research has so far resulted in breakthroughs including the identification of new genes responsible for glaucoma, the world’s first clinical trial of a gene therapy for choroideremia and the design of a new test that can detect the early stages of sight loss in age-related macular degeneration.

To find out more or to make a donation towards the next research breakthrough visit http://www.fightforsight.org.uk.

Top tips to keep your eyes healthy

Have regular check-ups: Have your eyes tested every two years even if you think your vision is fine. An eye test can spot some eye conditions and other illnesses not related to sight, such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, arthritis and brain tumours.

Find out your family eye health history: Talk to your relatives about your family eye health history. Some eye conditions have genetic links which increase your risk of developing them.
Wear sunglasses: Protect your eyes when it is sunny or when you’re in high glare areas such as near snow or water. Ongoing UV exposure can increase your risk of developing cataracts or macular degeneration.

Protect your eyes: Don’t look directly at the sun and wear safety goggles to protect your eyes from injury.

Stop smoking: Smoking is harmful to your eyes and can increase the risk of sight loss. Current smokers are 2-4 times more at risk of developing macular degeneration than people who have never smoked.

Keep fit and healthy: Being fit and well can help your eyes stay healthy. Maintaining a healthy weight and blood pressure may help with eye health.

Eat well: Make sure your diet includes nutrients such as Omega 3 fatty acids, zinc and vitamins C and E. These may help to delay age-related macular degeneration. Recommended foods for general good health include green leafy vegetables, oily fish such as salmon and citrus fruits.

Contacts:

Sarah Campion, Head of Media and PR; Direct line: 020 7264 3910

E-mail: sarah.campion@fightforsight.org.uk;

Switchboard: 020 7264 3900

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