Don’t turn a blind eye to avoidable sight loss

I have been reading some rather scary but interesting statistics recently.

Last year the Royal National Institute for the Blind, in conjunction with a certain High Street Optical chain, did an enormous amount of research into eye examinations amongst the population of Britain, and the state of the nation’s eye health in general. So shocked was I by some of their findings that if you are walking past our practice anytime soon, you will see how many people it is estimated will be suffering from avoidable sight loss within the next 12 months.

According to the RNIB’s YouGov poll 93% of the population understands that regular eye examinations can prevent sight loss, yet despite this a staggering 27% – 1 in 4 people – have not had their eyes tested within the last two years. Correlate this to the fact that generally sight is considered to be the most important of the senses, and you can’t help but wonder why so many people are still prepared to risk losing it.

There are currently approximately 2 million people in the UK living with some kind of sight loss, and before 2030 this number is expected to rise by a third.

Half of these people will be suffering from sight loss that could so easily have been remedied. The most common untreated causes are Cataracts, Glaucoma, Diabetic Retinopathy, Macular Degeneration and, almost unbelievably, simply the need for a correct pair of specs. All these things can be easily detected during a routine eye examination, and for which there are treatments or appliances to either correct the problem or to try and prevent it worsening. There really is no need for these poor people to be walking around in a fog.

The most vulnerable group are the elderly, for whom Cataracts and Macular Degeneration are the biggest causes of sight loss. Eye examinations for anyone aged 60 or over are free, and should be done at least every two years (yearly if you are 70 or over). Often the changes to vision in the elderly happen so gradually that maybe they just put it down to age and put up with it. In fact, 1 in 3 people aged 85 or over are suffering sight loss. I find that sad.

Equally saddening is the number of people currently living with sight threatening conditions that may not even have symptoms yet. That number is a staggering 5.7 million people. These people include diabetics, smokers, or people with obesity that could lead to diabetes.

The crucial piece of information that everyone needs to draw from this is that an eye examination should be a regular event in everyone’s life. The eyes may not be a window to the soul, but they are a window to your general health. We don’t just worry about how well you can see now, we worry about how well you will see next month, next year, in ten years time.

So, the next time you shuffle across the landing at 2 in the morning, in the pitch black, feeling your way to the loo, imagine how it would be if you had to do that everywhere you went, any time of the day or night. Our passion is to prevent that.


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