National Eye Health Week 2023: What can your eyes tell you about your general health?

20 September 23

written by:

Sarah Kidner

(more articles)

Looking after your eyes is vital for all of us, as early diagnosis can lead to better interventions. Besides safeguarding your sight, regular eye tests could also reveal other underlying physiological issues. The eyes can effectively be a window to your health, revealing cues from neurological conditions to eyelid cancer.

The eyes can effectively be a window to your health, revealing cues from neurological conditions to eyelid cancer.

Detecting early signs of age-related macular degeneration

Around one in 200 people has age-related macular degeneration by age 60, according to the Macular Society. The condition causes loss of central vision, but if detected early enough, treatment can help prevent wet age-related macular degeneration from worsening.

Currently, no treatment is available for dry age-related macular degeneration.

Researchers funded by Fight for Sight and the Special Trustees of Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust designed a test to spot the first signs of age-related macular degeneration.

Standard letter charts aren’t consistent or sensitive enough to give an early diagnosis, but the new Moorfields Acuity Test can. This is a hugely significant development since reducing age-related macular degeneration by just one per cent each year would save the UK economy nearly £1.2 billion by 2050.

Early symptoms of neurological conditions

Eye scans could help to identify signs of neurological conditions several years in advance, thanks to research we’ve funded. The research began with a small grant award from Fight for Sight and Alzheimer’s Society. These scans epitomise the power of the eyes as a window to other conditions – a field called ‘oculomics’.

The research team, led by Dr Siegfried Wagner and Professor Pearse Keane of Moorfield’s Eye Hospital and University College London (UCL) Institute of Ophthalmology, performed an automated analysis of  Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) scans of the back of the eye.

They then used data from AlzEye and UK Biobank to look for signs of Parkinson’s and other conditions.

Find out more about the project’s potential impact here.

How to spot early signs of Retinoblastoma

Have you ever noticed strange effects on your children’s eyes when taking a photograph? An unusual white reflection in your child’s eye or that one of their eyes has ‘red eye’ caused by a flash, can be a sign of retinoblastoma – the most common eye cancer in childhood.

Likewise, you may also see a white colour in the centre of a child’s eye.

While it is important to watch for this warning sign, it’s worth noting retinoblastoma is a relatively rare condition. It affects one out of every 16,000–18,000 live births1 worldwide. If you have a family history of this condition caused by a mutation of a gene in a retinal cell1, which is both an inherited and a non-inherited condition and can affect one or both eyes, you may want to check your child’s eyes regularly.

Fight for Sight funded Professor Majlinda Lako and her team at Newcastle University, created a model which can be used to test the effectiveness of new therapeutic regimes for retinoblastoma.

Find out more about research we funded into Retinoblastoma.

Our podcast featured Paralympian Darren Harris talking about how retinoblastoma impacted him and his family.

A Genetic test for myopia

Research funded by us could make it easier to spot children who will develop myopia – or short-sightedness – in later life.

We funded the research with Care Research Wales, which has led to scientists at Cardiff University creating a genetic test for myopia. There are treatments available that can delay the onset of short-sightedness or slow its rate of progression during childhood – and reduce the chances of myopic macular degeneration – so early detection is vital.

What are the symptoms of eyelid cancer?

Eyelid cancer is a general term used for a cancer that occurs on or in the eyelid. Around 5-10% of all cancers occur in the eyelid.

Some common signs of eyelid cancer include:

  • A sore that doesn’t heal
  • Swelling or thickening of the eyelid
  • Chronic infection of the eyelid
  • Red patches that may be itchy
  • A lump on the eyelid may be small, slow-growing, shiny and pink or red.

Read our A to Z for more details on eyelid cancer

Find out more about research we funded to improve survival rates for patients with eye cancer.

Encouraging eye care in the workplace

This year’s World Sight Day in October will focus on encouraging employers to ensure eye care is accessible, inclusive and available to workers everywhere.

Many people will acquire age-related conditions while they are still working. Read more about the rights you have as an employee.

1. Source:,births%20in%20the%20global%20population.