Leading eye research charity Fight for Sight has found that nearly three in ten British adults don’t follow the NHS recommendation to have an eye test every two years, and that the majority of this group (74%) say that it’s either because they can’t afford it or because they ‘can see fine’.
The YouGov research surveyed over 2000 people across Britain and found that 28% of adults get their eyes tested less than once every two years, with nearly one in ten (9%) never getting their eyes tested at all.
Of the 28% who admitted to getting their eyes tested less than once every two years the main reasons given were that they can’t afford it (27%) or that they ‘can see fine’ (52%). Three percent said that they are scared of what they might find out.
The charity says that these figures give cause for concern, in particular, because eye tests can pick up on the early stages of eye conditions like glaucoma as well as on many other conditions not related to sight, including diabetes, high blood pressure, inflammatory disease, and even brain tumors.
Fight for Sight is raising awareness of the importance of eye tests even if people think their sight is fine.
The charity says some patients who delay eye tests may discover problems that it’s too late to address, including one forty nine-year-old patient who hadn’t had an eye test for ten years and then found he already had advanced glaucoma and some sight loss.
Eastenders actress June Brown who is supporting the awareness campaign said:
I personally know how important it is to look after your sight. I suffered with a ruptured cyst, which unfortunately deteriorated to the point now where I have very poor sight. I would urge everyone to have their eyes tested regularly as this will pick up on the early signs of eye conditions like this as well as age related macular degeneration or glaucoma - so that people can get treatment where available as early as possible.”
Mark Bowell, 49, from Liverpool, was diagnosed with glaucoma at an advanced stage. He said:
It never occurred to me that there could be anything wrong with my eyes; I hadn’t been for an eye test for nearly ten years. I was so wrong. When it was bad enough to prompt me to go for a test I found that both my eyes had permanent damage and that we could have stopped it. Please learn from my mistake!”.
Dr Neil Ebenezer, Director of Research, Policy and Innovation at Fight for Sight, said:
These figures make sobering reading, and it’s worrying that three in ten people are not getting their eyes tested regularly. Even if you can see fine now it’s still really important to get your eyes tested as it can pick up on early stages of numerous eye diseases and on many other conditions not directly related to sight.
It’s particularly sad that many people say that they can’t afford it, and that they don’t have money available to be able to prioritize their eye health. We’d urge people to check whether they are entitled to free tests as we know that not everyone makes use of these opportunities. Check with your optician or you can find this information on the NHS website.”
Those entitled to free tests include all children under 16 years old, 16 to 18 year olds in full time education, people over 60, anyone registered as partially sighted, anyone diagnosed with diabetes or glaucoma, and people over 40 whose family members already have glaucoma.
Fight for Sight is the leading UK charity dedicated to funding pioneering research to prevent sight loss and treat eye disease.
Over the course of its history, the charity’s research has resulted in breakthroughs that include new treatments to save the sight of premature babies and the world’s first clinical trials to test gene therapies for eye conditions including choroideremia.