Sight: it's arguably one of the most important of our five senses. It facilitates more than 80% of our learning, cognition and perception, as well as our social interaction and day-to-day activities. And now, according to new research, it's the one sense we're most afraid of losing through old age.
So why is it that millions of us are still putting our eyesight at serious risk by failing to have regular eye examinations?
Since my last post, National Eye Health Week (NEHW) has kicked off with force (19 to 25 September) and a new report - released to coincide with the awareness week -- from NEHW and Specsavers has revealed that almost 14 million of us aren't having the recommended sight tests every two years - despite the fact that 55% of adults cite deteriorating vision as their biggest concern about getting older.
So if sight loss trumps both illness and hearing loss when it comes to our biggest fears, why aren't we doing more to preserve it? This question becomes even more significant when you take into consideration the fact that around half of all cases of sight loss are actually preventable.
Plus, it's not just day-to-day visual impairment we need to be wary of. Regular eye tests also play a crucial role in detecting wider, more serious health conditions including high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes and even signs of strokes and tumours.
The Generation Eye Report highlights the value people place on their vision and the depth of their knowledge about eye health. Based on its results it shows there is still an urgent job to do in educating the British population...
Shockingly, the data revealed that three quarters (75%) of people had suffered poor eye health in the last 12 months and more than one in five (22%) stated this had restricted or impaired their daily life.
So who are the worst offenders and how do we go about tackling the problem?
The report focused on three key groups: 18 - 24 year olds (The Unseen Generation), their parents (New Presbyopes) aged between 45 and 54 and their grandparents aged 65 and over (The Low Vision Generation).
Worryingly it discovered that those aged 18-24 were the group whose quality of vision or state of eye health had most restricted or impaired their daily life (36%), with around a third (32%) not having an eye test in the last two years.
The report found 80% of 45 - 54 year olds said they'd experienced problems with their eye health in the last year. While 94% of over-65s wore prescription eyewear however almost a third (32%) didn't know wearing the wrong prescription glasses or contact lenses could affect their eyesight.
These are pretty stark figures and there's no doubt that a huge proportion of us appear to be in the dark about taking care of our eyes. So if there's one key message people can take away from this year's NEWH, it is to ensure you are taking the time to have your eyes tested on a regular basis.
National guidelines recommend eye tests should take place once every two years at a minimum, but of course, if you notice any changes in your vision - no matter how big or small - it is crucial you pay your local opticians a visit immediately.
Also, it's worth remembering that sight tests are free for a large proportion of the population through the NHS - finding out whether you qualify is quick and easy and can be done via the Specsavers website.
Now is not the time to turn a blind eye to the importance of our sight.