THE focus was on tackling sight loss when a futuristic pod landed in South Tyneside.
Visiting the borough as part of the Save Our Sight campaign by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), the pod allowed visitors to experience common sight conditions, such as cataracts and glaucoma, and discover how to reduce the risk of sight loss in later life.
In 2011, there were about 4,840 people in South Tyneside living with sight loss, and this figure is set to rise to 5,740 by 2020.
Smoking and obesity impact on the development of sight conditions and South Tyneside has high levels of both, plus an ageing population, which also boosts sight loss numbers.
Peter Dixon, 60, of Beaconside, South Shields, who developed age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in his 50s, visited the Eye Pod at Monkton Hall Hospital, Jarrow, to support the RNIB campaign yesterday.
He said: “One of the worst effects of sight loss is loss of self-confidence and social isolation.
“I have peripheral vision, and just see a greyness or fogginess where people’s faces should be.”
But despite being registered blind several years ago, Mr Dixon still helps run an air training cadets group in Sunderland.
The visit of the pod and campaign is important and aimed at encouraging people to get regular eye tests and watch their smoking and diet,” Mr Dixon said.
Coun Fay Cunningham, cabinet member for health and wellbeing with South Tyneside Council, said: “Until visiting the pod, I didn’t realise smoking can damage your eyesight.
“This is a very important issue and I support any campaign to raise awareness.”
In 2008, the direct and indirect costs of sight loss were £6.5bn and this is expected to rise to £7.9bn in 2013.
The campaign stresses the importance of regular eye tests, screening for diabetes, plus the potential dangers posed by obesity and smoking to eyesight.
For details, visit rnib.org.uk