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Campaign to Combat avoidable sight loss in Lisburn and Castlereagh

One in five us will experience sight loss in our lifetime, but did you know that over 50 per cent of sight loss is avoidable?

There are an estimated 4,770 of people with sight loss in the Lisburn and Castlereagh area. Currently across Northern Ireland, there are 57,500 people with this figure expected to rise by over 25 per cent, to 73,200 across Northern Ireland by 2032.

RNIB, alongside the NI Eyecare Network (RNIB Northern Ireland, the Department of Health, the Public Health Agency and Optometry NI), wants to highlight that one in five people will experience sight loss in their lives, but that over 50 per cent of sight loss is avoidable.

A routine eye examination can often pick up the first signs of a sight loss condition even before there are any symptoms. Early detection and intervention could save your sight, or keep your condition under control.

This World Sight Day (Thursday 13 October), Mayor of Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council, Councillor Scott Carson, was glad to welcome the nationwide #EyeCareWeCare awareness roadshow to Lisburn’s Bow Street Mall.

Finaghy man Mark Bridgeland, who has experienced sight loss himself, wants to encourage everyone to attend regular eye appointments, and ensure they get checked out by an optometrist if they have even the slightest of concerns.

Mark who was diagnosed with a progressive sight condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa in his 40s, and now has no vision in his left eye and tunnel vision, said, “Sometimes conditions affecting your eyesight can progress really slowly, and if you’re not going to regular appointments, may be discovered too late to prevent long term sight loss.”

“Knowing many people who are registered blind or partially sighted, many have said they didn’t think much of the changes they noticed in their sight, such as floaters or blurriness, and now they can hardly see. Early treatment can often prevent this happening.

“For myself, I didn’t get the support I could have had when I was younger because my eye condition wasn’t identified or understood properly. I became very frustrated in school, became the ‘problem child’, when really I may have thrived if I’d had support, things in large print, perhaps a classroom assistant.

“50 years ago they didn’t have the technology they have today, both to detect changes that could be a danger to sight, and to enable people with sight loss to carry out everyday tasks in a different way, for example using screen readers on a computer.

“Don’t dismiss any of your concerns. Get an appointment, or pick up the phone. That’s what these professionals are there for. There are no silly questions.

“You can also always contact RNIB. Their staff are always easy to talk to and very helpful. My life changed so much for the better since getting in contact with them. Yours can too.”

The Right Worshipful the Mayor of Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council, Councillor Scott Carson said: “I am pleased to be here today and help raise awareness of the importance of prevention and early intervention when it comes to our sight, that we can so often take for granted.”

He said: “I understand that sight is the sense people say they fear losing the most, yet we’re told an eye appointment with their optician is the one they are most likely to miss, cancel or avoid. An eye test could save your sight, or detect other underlying illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease or cancer.”

The Mayor urged people to follow advice and attend routine eye appointments at least once every two years - even if there is no change in your vision.

Robert Shilliday, RNIB Northern Ireland’s Country Director and Co-Chair of the NI Eyecare Network, said:

“We want to ensure we are reaching as much of the population as possible with these eye health messages.

“The #EyeCareWeCare campaign also seeks to connect the 57,500 blind and partially sighted people currently living in Northern Ireland with all the available forms of services and support across the statutory, community and voluntary sectors.

“I want to thank the Mayor Carson and Mark for their support with this campaign today.”

For further information on eye health and support services, visit

Notes to editors

Further Interviews are available. Spokespersons include:

- Finaghy man Mark Bridgeland who is registered severely sight impaired

- Robert Shilliday, RNIB Northern Ireland’s Country Director

- Raymond Curran, Head of Ophthalmic Services, Strategic Planning and Performance Group, Department of Health NI

- Dr Jackie McCall, Consultant in Public Health at the Public Health Agency

- Jill Campbell, Chair of Optometry NI.

For further information, or to arrange interviews, please contact Kirsty Campbell on [email protected], or 07702 856 686

#EyeCareWeCare roadshows

The #EyeCareWeCare event in Lisburn’s Bow Street Mall was the second in a series of roadshows to be held across each of the five Health Trust areas from now until March 2023.

Love your eyes – our five eye health top tips

Regular eye tests

Sight is the sense people say they fear losing the most, yet an eye appointment is the one they’re most likely to miss, cancel or avoid. Most people should have their eyes examined at least once every two years - even if there is no change in your vision. An eye examination can often pick up the first signs of a sight loss condition before you notice any symptoms.

Did you know a routine eye test can also detect a range of life-threatening conditions such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease?

To check if you’re eligible for help towards eye test and glasses costs, call the free Health and Social Care Information Line on 0800 587 8982 or visit

Get help to stop smoking

Age-related macular degeneration is the UK’s most common cause of sight loss and smoking doubles that risk.

Eat healthy and watch your weight

Obesity can increase the risk of developing diabetes, which in turn can also cause sight loss. Eating a diet low in saturated fats but rich in green leafy vegetables such as spinach and broccoli may help delay the progression of conditions such as cataracts and AMD.

Wear sunglasses

UVA and UVB rays in sunlight can harm your eyes and may increase the risk of cataracts and AMD. Wearing sunglasses, glasses or contact lenses with built in UV filter will protect your eyes. Only buy sunglasses that have a CE mark or carry British Standard BS EN ISO 12312-1.

Safety first

DIY and sport cause thousands of eye-related injuries each year. Always wear safety goggles (European Standard BS EN 166) or sports goggles to keep your eyes protected.