29 Nov 2018

Revealed: sight-stealing disease more prevalent than dementia faces funding crisis

Revealed: sight-stealing disease more prevalent than dementia faces funding crisis: Zac Shaw at the Vision Express Loughborough store.

The Macular Society and optician launch festive campaign with inspirational Para-athlete - £1 from every eye test will go towards tackling UK’s biggest cause of blindness

New research shows macular disease is more prevalent than dementia – and is now an urgent public health issue because it is forecasted to reach epidemic proportions unless at least an extra £6million PER YEAR is invested in research.

That’s the outlook of the Macular Society, which is teaming up with Vision Express for a first of its kind campaign in a bid to boost funding for macular conditions.

The Society has found that, in an escalation of previous estimates, nearly 1.5m people in the UK are affected by macular disease, with 300 people facing a shock diagnosis every single day. And although it is the nation’s biggest cause of blindness across all age groups, without any cure and only limited treatment options, public funding remains woefully inadequate.

It has mapped out a plan to stop the disease in its tracks – by increasing its funding of macular research tenfold by 2023 to £6million per year.

Cathy Yelf, chief executive of the Macular Society, said: “Our new strategy sets out what needs to do be done to avert an epidemic of blindness in the UK, and increased funding is absolutely critical.

“It is more prevalent than dementia and represents a huge cost, care and societal burden, yet inexplicably, does not receive a level of research funding proportionate to its impact. Just 0.2 per cent 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.”

National optical retailer Vision Express is donating £1 from every eye test in December to the charity, to bolster the research pot.

Supporting the optician is Para-athlete Zac Shaw, who was diagnosed with a macular condition called Stargardt disease following an eye test at Vision Express, aged just nine. He has since lost 90 per cent of his vision, but the inspirational 23-year-old has achieved the title of the UK’s number 1 visually impaired sprinter. He is hoping to go for gold at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. He said: “Having Stargardt disease affects your confidence, not just in sport, but in day to day life too. It can be hard doing something simple like getting on a train or a bus or going to the supermarket. I want to inspire those living with macular disease, like me, to go out there and achieve their dreams. This campaign is so important because the ultimate aim has to be to stop this cruel condition.”

Macular disease is a progressive condition that steals the central vision of those affected, leaving many unable to drive, read, watch TV or recognise the faces of their closest friends and family. It is linked to falls, social isolation, depression and suicide.

Jay Ghadiali, director of professional services at Vision Express, added: “We’ve been a proud partner of the Macular Society since 2014, and 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 £6million funding figure. This is unprecedented - Vision Express has never introduced a donation-per-test scheme, which shows just how seriously we take this issue, and we have committed to giving to the Macular Society £1 from every single eye test we complete across our network of almost 600 stores nationwide in December.”

Read more stories on these topics:

Contact information

Claire Stuart

Senior PR Manager


0115 988 2138

About Vision Express

Vision Express is one of the largest optical retailers in the UK and part of GrandVision, the global leader in optical retail operating in more than 40 countries, spanning over 6,500 stores and online.

With almost 600 stores nationwide, Vision Express first opened its doors in Newcastle in 1988. Built on a passion for the profession, it has gone from strength to strength, driven by a commitment to unparalleled customer service and providing the best individual optical care, the right product and great value. Customers can select from a vast range of genuine designer brands and the latest technology lenses, through to complete glasses from £39.

With around 6,000 employees, Vision Express makes a significant difference to the communities it operates within, and the organisations it chooses to support. As part of its commitment to Vision. Taken Seriously, and as a responsible and caring retailer, Vision Express is proud to partner with a range of healthcare charities, which have touched the lives of customers and teams. These companies provide vital support to people affected by vision-related conditions. They are part of the Vision Express Charity Project and include:

  • Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT)
  • International Glaucoma Association
  • Macular Society
  • Stroke Association
  • Temple Street University Hospital
  • Brake