Our mission to end sight loss

Fight for Sight is the only UK charity 100% dedicated to funding sight-saving research. With the help of our donors, we have been funding research for over 50 years into the prevention and treatment of blindness and eye disease.

Every five minutes in the UK, someone is told they’re losing their sight.  And we’re geared and ready, on the cusp of achieving major breakthroughs to help them. We’ve made considerable progress, but we know how much more we can achieve, provided we receive the funding we need.

We’re investing in projects at leading universities and hospitals across the country, supporting the brightest minds in vision research. Researchers are investigating ways to prevent and treat the many different causes of sight loss – from common conditions like glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration to rarer ones that are nevertheless just as devastating. But without extra funding for our research, we are limited in the strides we can make.

We are at a crucial point in our fight against sight loss and have identified four key areas that will help us win the fight. It’s only because of our generous supporters that we can carry on this vital work in these challenging times.

1. Age-related macular degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration is the most common cause of permanent and severe sight loss in the UK – 1.2 million people have the condition in its early stages. A total of 700,000 people UK-wide have late-stage age-related macular degeneration.

Macular degeneration causes a loss of central vision, robbing people of both their sight and their independence. Elaine was diagnosed with wet age-related macular degeneration in 2016. She said:

“The biggest impact my eye condition has had on my life is not being able to drive anymore. I live in the countryside, so when I need to go for my injections every few weeks, it’s a two-hour bus journey to get to the clinic and a two-hour bus journey home. In winter, that’s particularly difficult.”

Our primary goal is to develop a treatment for the thousands of individuals affected by dry macular degeneration which currently has no cure. 

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 2. Glaucoma

Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world. And around 500,000 people are living with glaucoma in the UK. Sight lost from glaucoma cannot be recovered.

Kristine Pourgourides has significant sight loss caused by glaucoma. She said:

“I was a very independent person – I travelled abroad quite a lot. Now I’ve been registered as partially sighted and at times I have to use a white stick. I’m very dependent on my husband now and it’s taken a lot of time to come to terms with.”

We are focused on finding new treatments that can improve early diagnosis, stop progress of this disease or ultimately repair damage to the optic nerve and restore sight loss from glaucoma – something that is not currently possible.

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3. Inherited eye conditions

Thousands of children and adults continue to be affected by sight loss or blindness from inherited eye diseases that result from faulty genes. We know science holds the solution to transform the lives of children, adults and their families. Although individually rare, inherited eye diseases are collectively a significant cause of sight loss.

Through the Tommy Salisbury Fund, Fight for Sight funded early-stage research which led to the first clinical trial for a choroideremia gene therapy treatment. Joe Pepper recovered some of his sight after taking part in the trial. He said:

“To grow up gradually seeing your vision deteriorate and having to contemplate giving up the sports and activities you love was soul destroying. Thanks to the research funding of Fight for Sight I no longer have to prepare for going blind. I encourage everyone to treasure the sights you see. I certainly do and now always will be able to.”

We’re focusing on understanding the mechanisms of diseases and developing new diagnostics and treatments, including exciting gene therapies that have the potential to halt progression of disease or even improve vision.

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4. Sight loss linked to other diseases

Greater numbers of people today are losing their sight while dealing with other conditions too. This is partly due to our ageing population leading to more patients with multiple conditions – challenging healthcare services, researchers and research funders alike.

Suzi Bushby has diabetic retinopathy, a complication of diabetes that causes sight loss. She said:

“Waking up, it’s the first thing I think of when I open my eyes and whether I’ll be able to see. It hasn’t helped that pregnancy really progressed the condition meaning I probably will not be able to have a second child. It makes me very tired and quite emotional. I'm always worried about what's coming next.”

We want to encourage and support research that helps increase our understanding of how sight loss co-exists with other long-term conditions including diabetes, inflammatory conditions and Alzheimer’s disease. The research we fund uses pioneering approaches, from artificial intelligence to single RNA sequencing.

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Each year, we receive truly outstanding research applications from world-class researchers across the UK that could transform the lives of people living with sight loss. However, we can only fund a small proportion of the research applications that we receive due to limited funds. The advent of Covid-19 has been a challenge for everyone – and sadly inevitably this will mean even more strain on the levels of funding for vital eye research.

With your support we can continue to improve lives today and transform them tomorrow with vital, early-stage research that is making breakthroughs in treatments.

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