London, UK – More than three million people have pledged to have their eyes tested this World Sight Day as experts warn that coronavirus and lockdown are causing a global vision crisis. The activity is part of a new #LoveYourEyes campaign, coordinated by the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) – the overarching alliance for the global eye health sector.
Global eye health reaches new low during pandemic
Those involved in the #LoveYourEyes campaign say the need for people to get their sight checked is more apparent now than ever, with the pandemic and worldwide lockdowns leading to more time spent on screens, less time spent outdoors, and missed sight tests.
A study in China found the number of kids being diagnosed with short-sightedness doubled in 2020 compared to 2019.
Another recent study found that, in the UK, almost 3,000 people are estimated to have lost vision due to delays in the identification and treatment of eye disease, and 4.3 million fewer people received sight tests in 2020, compared to 2019.
On a global scale, IAPB warns half the world’s population will be short-sighted – also known as myopic – by 2050. Up to one fifth of those are at significant risk of blindness if current trends continue.
Top tips to #LoveYourEyes from WHO
The World Health Organisation (WHO) is backing the campaign encouraging people to get sight checked and offering advice on how to #LoveYourEyes.
Alarcos Cieza, Unit Head for Vision, Disability and Rehabilitation at the WHO said:
“The last year has been incredibly tough on people, and it has been tough on their eyes too. We have found ourselves spending more time looking at screens, spending less time outside, and we have also had to miss sight check-ups. However, there are a few easy things we can do to show our eyes and our loved ones’ eyes, especially our children’s, some extra care.
“Firstly, book an eye test. Prevention really is better than cure and an eye test often helps detect issues (beyond just your eyesight) before you may notice them yourself.
Secondly, follow the 20-20-20 rule. This means taking a 20-second break to view something 20 feet away every 20 minutes when using devices.
“Thirdly, encourage your child (children) to play outside regularly and spend at least 90 minutes each day outside. This will give your child a screen break and allow them to focus on different distances and spend time in natural light which can help keep your child’s eyes healthy.
“Finally, it is important to wear your glasses as instructed by your eye health professional. It isn’t true that glasses make your vision worse. They will not only help to see clearly but help prevent eyes from straining to see things.”
Notes to Editors
Interviews available from IAPB and expert optometrists in US, India and Australia.
The #LoveYourEyes campaign, run by IAPB, is running this week for World Sight Day (Thursday 14 October). People worldwide are being encouraged to join the three million already taking part and get their sight tested, in a bid to make people aware of their eye health. This will not only make them engaged with their own eye health, but is also an opportunity to build awareness of the 1.1 billion people around the world who live with preventable sight loss but have no access to eye care services.
Peter Holland, CEO of IAPB said “The success of this year’s World Sight Day and our Love Your Eyes campaign has been unparalleled, and I’ve been delighted and proud of what we have done together.
“Every test pledged, every screening held, and every social media message sent has meant that we were able to reach more people than ever before with over 3million pledging to love their eyes. But the scale of the challenge we face is immense. The pandemic struck a massive blow to global eye health, and we must continue to act to save millions from unnecessary blindness”
 Shaheen, M. (2021) Number of kids who developed nearsightedness in 2020 DOUBLED compared to 2019 due to remote learning and less time spent outside. Mail Online, 16 September.
 Young, K. (2021) Report describes the cost of the pandemic on eye health. Optometry Today, 17 September.
 IAPB. (2016) Half the world to be short-sighted by 2050