Research by the College of Optometrists released today reveals around five million Brits can’t remember or believe it’s been more than 10 years since they had an eye exam, despite the fact more than two thirds (66%) of the population recognise that you can have a serious eye problem without realising it as there may not be any symptoms.
The College of Optometrists has joined forces with the organisers of National Eye Health Week to urge people to treat their eye health just as seriously as they would other parts of the body.
Dr Susan Blakeney, the College of Optometrists’ Clinical Adviser, said: “Eighty six per cent* of people value their eyesight above any other sense and over two thirds of people wear corrective lenses of some sort. However, it often takes a big change in vision or health for people to visit an optometrist to find out what’s going on, and that may be too late to reverse any damage to sight, especially if you are in an at-risk group. Most people will probably be fine but it’s worth remembering not every eye condition has symptoms so regular check-ups, unless otherwise advised by your optometrist, are vital to maintain healthy eyes.”
Most people are recommended to go for a check-up every two years, unless otherwise advised by an optometrist. This will ensure any changes in vision or eye health are picked up early. People over the age of 40 and people of African Caribbean descent are strongly recommended to visit an optometrist at least every two years. This is because of the increased risk of developing an eye disease such as glaucoma – a sight threatening condition that does not cause symptoms initially.
The research found that of the people over 40 that hadn’t been for a sight test in the last two years, more than one in ten (14%) hadn’t booked an appointment because they didn’t think it was necessary. This was the most popular reason given by almost half (45%) of all respondents who had not been for a sight test in the last two years, followed by not being able to afford a new pair of glasses. Not having the time was cited by nearly a fifth (19%) of people.
Francesca Marchetti, Chair of National Eye Health Week said: "Many people dread the thought of losing their sight but few of us think about what we can do to keep our eyes healthy. One of the most important steps you can take to protect your sight is to get your eyes checked regularly.
"A sight test is not just to check whether you need to wear glasses it is actually a window into your overall health. An eye check can detect eye conditions which have no symptoms and other conditions such as diabetes and hypertension.
"Other ways to keep your eyes healthy include quitting smoking, protecting your eyes from the sun by wearing CE marked sunglasses and eating a diet full of dark green leafy vegetables and oily fish such as salmon."
Top tips for healthy eyes:
- Don’t forget your eyes – treat your eye health as you would any other part of your body. Most people are recommended to go for a check-up every two years, unless otherwise advised by an optometrist. Even if you think your vision is fine, some eye conditions, for example open angle glaucoma, may not show symptoms.
- Be risk aware – people of Asian or African Caribbean descent or people over 40 should go for a sight test at least every two years as they are more at risk of developing eye disease.
- Quit smoking – if you smoke, you have another good reason to kick the habit. Smoking is linked to blindness. Current smokers are four times more likely to develop macular degeneration – a progressive disease that can lead to significant sight loss – compared to past smokers or non-smokers.
- It’s all relative – talk to your relatives about your family eye health history as some eye conditions, such as glaucoma, can run in families. It’s important to think about your child’s eyes and to be aware of their vision, especially if there is a family history of lazy eye or squint or family members wore particularly strong spectacles when they were young.
- Be cool in the sun – protect your eyes when it is sunny or when you’re in high glare areas such as near snow or water. Cumulative UV exposure may damage your eyes. When choosing sunglasses make sure that they are safe as well as stylish! Look out for the CE or BS EN 1836:2005 marks – this ensures that they provide a safe level of protection from the sun’s damaging UVA and UVB rays. Don’t forget to also protect children’s eyes – they’re more at risk.
- Contact lens care – if you wear contact lenses make sure you look after them properly. Thoroughly wash and dry your hands before touching your contact lenses or your eyes, and only ever clean your contact lenses using the solution recommended by your optometrist. Never shower, sleep or swim with your contact lenses in because this can put you at risk of developing a serious eye infection which could lead to blindness. Also, don't wear them for longer periods than recommended by your optometrist.
- Protect your eyes – if you work with hazardous or airborne materials at work or home wear safety glasses or protective goggles to protect your eyes from injury.
- Keep fit and healthy – regular exercise is essential to stay fit and healthy but it is also important that when playing sports such as squash that you wear protective eye wear such as helmets or sports goggles to protect your eyes from a flying ball.
- Eat well – protecting your eyes starts with the food you eat. Nutrients rich in omega-3 fatty acids, zinc and vitamins C and E may help to prevent age-related vision problems such as macular degeneration and cataracts. Recommended foods include green leafy vegetables and oily fish, such as salmon, and citrus fruits.
Visit www.lookafteryoureyes.org for information on how to keep your eyes healthy and to find your nearest optometrist or visit www.visionmatters.org.uk for more information about National Eye Health Week.
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are based on a survey of 4,032 16+ UK residents conducted by YouGov between 31st July - 5th August 2012 and are taken from the forthcoming Britain’s Eye Health in Focus 2012 – a report by the College of Optometrists which provides a comprehensive overview of consumer attitudes and behaviour in relation to eye health. The full report is due to be published in autumn 2012.
*Figure taken from Britain’s Eye Health In Focus report: A study in consumer attitudes and behaviour towards eye health, June 2011