Macular disease is more prevalent than dementia and is a public health issue that is forecast to reach epidemic proportions, according to new research commissioned by the Macular Society.
As a result, national charity the Macular Society has teamed up with Vision Express to launch a campaign to boost research funding into macular conditions.
The Macular Society reports that currently 1.5m people in the UK are affected by macular disease, with 300 people being diagnosed every day. The charity estimates that to halt the sight-threatening disease, funding needs to increase by £6 million per year.
While macular disease is the biggest cause of blindness across all age groups, with no cure and limited treatment options, public funding is inadequate, the charity emphasised.
Chief executive of the Macular Society, Cathy Yelf, said: “Our new strategy sets out what needs to be done to avert an epidemic of blindness in the UK and increasing funding is absolutely critical.”
Ms Yelf highlighted that macular disease is more prevalent than dementia, yet does not receive a level of research funding proportionate to its impact.
She said: “Just 0.2% of UK public medical research money is spent on macular disease. That is nowhere near enough to make real advancements into treatment or a possible cure. As a charity, we can’t do it alone, we rely on the support of our partners and donors to make this happen, so the commitment from Vision Express is a valuable step towards meeting our target.”
During December, Vision Express will donate £1 from every £10 eye test that it performs to the Macular Society.
Supporting the campaign is Vision Express patient and para-athlete Zac Shaw, who was diagnosed with Stargart disease following an eye test at the multiple when he was nine years old.
Now at 23, Mr Shaw has lost 90% of his vision, but is the UK’s number one visually impaired sprinter and is hoping to achieve gold in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Director of professional affairs at Vision Express, Jay Ghadiali, said: “We’re pleased to be joining forces in December to raise both funds and awareness to enable the charity to get closer to meeting that £6 million funding figure.”
It is the first time that Vision Express has run a donation-per-test scheme, which Mr Ghadiali said “shows just how seriously we take this issue.”