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Protecting sight

We work to prevent avoidable blindness and save the sight of the some of the world’s most vulnerable people.

A boy in Zanzibar wears special specs to have his eyes tested.

We fund operations for people who need them, and train eye care workers and surgeons to provide sight-saving treatment.

Through community volunteers in developing countries, we also arrange for medication to be distributed to local communities to prevent blinding diseases.

Here you can find out about some of the eye conditions and causes of blindness that Sightsavers helps to treat, what we’re doing about them, and how you can help.

Trachoma

Trichiasis patient Edisa Nalubanga has her bandages removed after surgery.

Trachoma is the world’s leading infectious cause of blindness, and starts off as an eye infection a bit like conjunctivitis.

If it isn’t treated, over time it causes scarring to the eyelid that makes the eyelashes turn inward and scrape against the eye, causing tremendous pain and, eventually, blindness. The infection can be treated with antibiotics, while surgery can stop the eyelashes rubbing against the eyeball.

What we’re doing

Sightsavers aims to eliminate trachoma completely in the countries in which we work.

More about trachoma

River blindness

A man examines black fly larvae found near the the Agogo river in northern Uganda.

River blindness, also known as onchocerciasis, is a parasitic infection that can cause severe skin irritation, itching, visual impairment and irreversible blindness.

It is spread by the bite of infected black flies that breed in fast-flowing rivers, which gave rise to the term ‘river blindness’. It can be treated with medication to help stop the spread of infection.

What we’re doing

In 2017, Sightsavers helped to distribute more than 48 million treatments for the disease.

More on river blindness

Cataracts

A man has his eyes checked for trachoma in Ghana.

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

The condition is often thought to only affect older people, but in developing countries it’s a huge problem for children too. Cataracts are thought to cause up to 60 per cent of blindness in parts of Africa, and 20 million people worldwide are blind because of the condition.

What we’re doing

In 2017, Sightsavers helped to provide more than 316,000 cataract operations.

More about cataracts

Refractive error

16-year-old Mohammed from Zanzibar is measured for spectacles.

Refractive errors are caused by irregularity in the shape of the eye, making it hard to focus clearly.

They include myopia (short-sightedness), hyperopia (long-sightedness), astigmatism (caused by an irregularly curved cornea) and presbyopia (a normal ageing change where the eye is no longer able to focus at close range). These eye conditions can be particularly problematic in poorer developing countries, where those affected may not be able to afford sight tests or spectacles.

What we’re doing

Sightsavers distributes spectacles and helps to train optometrists to diagnose vision problems.

More on refractive error

Other conditions

A five-year-old girl in Ethiopia has her eyes checked for trachoma.

Sightsavers also works to treat and prevent a range of other eye conditions that can cause visual impairment or blindness.

These include glaucoma, which is caused when the eye’s drainage becomes blocked, leading to pressure that can damage the optic nerve. Our work also covers diabetic retinopathy, which affects the blood vessels in the back of the eye.

How do our eyes work?

Our eyes are responsible for four-fifths of all the information our brain receives.

More about our eyes

You can change lives for the better

I would like to make a donation

Could pay towards a cataract operation to give a child back their sight.

Could pay for trachoma operations to stop two people going blind.

Could pay for treatment to prevent 720 families losing their sight to river blindness.

£
We're sorry, but the minimum donation we can take is £2
We're sorry, but we cannot process a donation of this size online. Please contact us on [email protected] for assistance donating over £10,000

Could protect or treat 120 people for trachoma.

Could pay for cataract operations to give sight to two adults.

Could pay for the operations and aftercare to give sight to a child with cataracts.

£
We're sorry, but the minimum donation we can take is £2
We're sorry, but we cannot process a donation of this size online. Please contact us on [email protected] for assistance donating over £10,000

More about eye health

Sisters Barikisu and Ayishetu sit outside their home with bandages covering their eyes, following their trachoma operation.
Sightsavers blog

Why universal health coverage is vital to fight extreme poverty

It is estimated that half the world still lacks access to essential health services, and that’s why Universal Health Coverage Day is so important.

A woman has her eyes examined by a health worker, who shines a torch into her eye.
Sightsavers Reports

Namakau’s story

Namakau, from Zambia, has had trachoma for decades and is now irreversibly blind. A fear of modern medicine had stopped her from seeking treatment.

A village screening by Dr Ndalela under a tree.
Sightsavers from the field

Sightsavers in Zambia: protecting rural communities from trachoma

Sightsavers’ Tom Hodgson travelled to Zambia to see how eye surgeon Mr Ndalela is saving sight by diagnosing and treating people for trachoma.

Learn about our work to save sight