Over 80% of Brighton residents who had their eyes tested when a health initiative rolled into The Plaza were in need of new prescriptions – and only one visitor was found to need no immediate help with their sight.

Vision Express offered free tests from its Vision Van prompted by figures revealing more than 12% of residents over 50 in Brighton and Hove are at risk of macular disease.

Brighton resident Paul Dollimore, who was found to need a new prescription, said: “I live just across the road here and saw the Vision Van as I was walking past. My last eye test was five to six years ago when I had laser eye surgery, but I was told that my eyesight would inevitably deteriorate as I reached my 40s – and it has.

“I’m going to get some reading glasses soon. I’m due to take my motorcycle test soon and part of it is a vision check so I thought it would be good to make sure my eyes are ok.”

Vision Express optometrist Farah Chaudry, who was on board the Vision Van, added: “Having the Vision Van in Brighton has been really worthwhile and people seemed to be very interested. Research shows that 37% put off having an eye test due to cost concern[1], so by offering this essential health check for free, Vision Express is setting aside the affordability issue to help those that need it most in Brighton.”

Brighton was on the Vision Van route in response to statistics showing 9,000 people – equivalent to more than 12% of the local over 50 population – have been identified as having risk factors associated with age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

AMD is a painless eye condition that affects central vision and has no cure. It is the most common cause of sight loss in the developed world. Around 600,000 people in the UK have vision loss as a result of AMD and in Brighton, almost 5,000 over 50s have already been diagnosed. Representatives from Vision Express and the Macular Society were on hand at the Vision Van to advise on how to spot the signs and symptoms of macular conditions.

Nearly 200 new cases are detected every day, with the number of people affected forecast to increase due to more eye disease in an ageing population which requires long term care.

UV damage is one of the risk factors for macular disease and simple steps such as wearing sun protection can help to avoid harm.

The Vision Van also offered the chance to snap up a pair of yellow heart-shaped ‘Eye Love’ sunglasses in exchange for a suggested donation of £5 to the Macular Society.

Vision Express CEO Jonathan Lawson said: “While there is no outright cure for AMD, it can be managed in some cases and outcomes improved if detected early enough, which is why we’re offering free sight tests so that everyone can get checked out.

“And with UV exposure being one of the risk factors for macular disease, we wanted to support our charity partner by producing the ‘Eye Love’ glasses to raise awareness of sun protection and healthy eyes.”