Protecting sight

Sightsavers prevents avoidable blindness and protects the sight of some of the world’s most vulnerable people.

Globally, 1.1 billion people have a visual impairment that could have been treated or prevented.

Sightsavers believes nobody should be blind from avoidable causes, and we want everybody to be able to get eye treatment when they need it, regardless of who they are or where they live.

Around the world, the number of people in need of eye care is spiralling. Unless eye health services improve, 61 million people could be blind because of global population growth and ageing by 2050.

Sightsavers aims to address this by providing eye surgery and training eye care workers to provide vital treatment. Since our work began, we’ve helped to carry out more than 11 million sight-saving eye operations.

Through community volunteers, we distribute medication to protect people from blinding diseases that can cause pain, stigma and lifelong impairment. We also work to ensure health services are accessible to people with disabilities, women and girls, and other marginalised groups.

Eye conditions we treat and prevent

Cataracts are caused by a build-up of protein that clouds the eye’s lens, which can lead to blurred vision and eventual blindness.

More than 12 million people worldwide are blind because of cataracts. They are often thought to only affect older people, but in poorer countries cataracts cause sight loss for thousands babies and infants. Thankfully, the condition can be treated with a straightforward operation.

More about cataracts

Nearly half of visual impairment is caused by refractive error, including long-sightedness, short-sightedness and astigmatism.

These irregularities in the shape of the eye can cause blurred vision, but can be corrected with spectacles if needed. However, the condition can be problematic in lower income countries, where people may not be able to afford sight tests or spectacles to help improve their vision.

More about refractive error

Trachoma is the world’s leading infectious cause of blindness: there are 44 countries where people are at risk from the disease.

It starts off as a bacterial infection that can be easily treated. But if it’s not, over time it can cause the eyelashes to scrape against the eye, causing pain and, eventually, sight loss. Worldwide, it’s thought that 1.9 million people are blind or visually impaired because of the disease.

More about trachoma

This parasitic infection causes severe skin irritation and irreversible blindness, but it can be treated with antibiotics to stop it spreading and prevent sight loss.

It’s thought 1.1 million people worldwide are blind because of the disease, which is spread by the bite of infected flies that breed near fast-flowing rivers. This often forces people to move away from fertile river valleys, leaving them unable to grow crops.

More about river blindness

Glaucoma is caused when pressure builds up inside the eye, damaging the optic nerve that connects the eye to the brain.

It’s thought that 4.5 million people across the globe are blind because of glaucoma, making it the third highest cause of blindness worldwide. The condition can be difficult to diagnose because symptoms don’t appear straight away – instead, they develop slowly over many years.

More about glaucoma

This eye disease is caused by high blood sugar and high blood pressure. It can damage the blood vessels in the eye, eventually leading to blindness.

People who have diabetes are also at higher risk of developing other eye problems, including cataracts and glaucoma. Keeping blood sugar levels, blood pressure and cholesterol levels under control can prevent diabetes-related vision problems.

About diabetic retinopathy

What we’re doing to save sight

An eye health worker wearing a mask and face shield checks a child's eyes for signs of eye disease.

We train eye surgeons

Our work relies on thousands of skilled staff. Since 1950, we’ve trained more than 3,800 ophthalmic nurses and 1,000 cataract surgeons.
A guide to eye health roles

Community drug distributors James and Elizabeth check medication for trachoma in Kenya.

We use local volunteers

These volunteers learn to check people’s symptoms, distribute preventative medication in their communities and refer patients for further treatment.
Meet our volunteers

A still from Sightsavers health systems video, showing a group of people standing in a line: a family, an older man with a cane, a mother and child, and a couple.

We improve health care

We work with governments and partners to improve local health services, ensuring everyone can get health care when they need it.
About health systems strengthening

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How you can help

Since our work began, we’ve helped to provide 8.3 million cataract operations.

We’ve also distributed more than a billion treatments to protect people from blinding diseases such as trachoma and river blindness. But we need your support to continue protecting sight.

Access to the right eye care can create a massive, positive ripple effect in people’s lives. Globally, hundreds of billions of dollars are lost in productivity each year because of visual impairment. But eye care can improve access to education and work opportunities, and reduce poverty and hunger. Will you help us achieve this?

Give a gift to protect sight today