Nearly 3 in 5 not had routine eye test in past year with Gen X & Baby Boomers most at risk of vision loss

October 2021

New findings published for World Sight Day reveal the state of eye health across Britain. Nearly 3 in 5 people have not had their eyes tested in the past year. While almost a third (29%) admit their last eye test was more than two years ago. This is despite 1 in 3 people admitting their eyesight has got worse since the start of the pandemic.

The findings are particularly worrying for Gen x and Baby Boomers who are more at risk of vision loss from preventable conditions.

The NHS recommends people have an eye test every two years, especially those over 40 years of age who have a history of glaucoma, and adults with diabetes. Yet, more than a third (35%) of adults aged 45-54 years of age and 1 in 5 adults (20%) aged 55 + admit their last eye test was more than two years ago. This puts them at greater risk of avoidable vision loss from conditions such as cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration.

The YouGov poll of 2,025 people across Britain was commissioned by Orbis UK, the international eye health charity fighting avoidable blindness worldwide. The findings offer a snapshot into the impact of the pandemic on Britain’s eye health. Since March 2020, 50% of adults haven’t attempted to book a routine check-up with an optician, and 2 in 3 (69%) haven’t attempted to book specialist eye care at a hospital or with an ophthalmologist.

With the theme of this year’s World Sight Day #LoveYourEyes encouraging everyone to have an eye test, Orbis UK are calling on those who have missed eye tests to book one immediately, especially those aged 45 years and over.

While the findings show adults in Britain are behind in taking care of their eye health, the situation is far worse for people living in parts of the world with limited access to eye care. Globally 1.1 billion people live with vision loss and 9 in 10 of them live in low-to- middle-income countries, where Orbis works.

Individuals like Dung from Vietnam whose cataracts prevented him from working. As the main breadwinner in his family, Dung was unable to take time off work to get an exam for the cataract in his right eye. But when his left eye also started to get blurry, even tasks like eating became difficult until he could no longer work at all. After receiving sight-saving surgery from Orbis Dung said, “The first thing I want to do when I can leave this hospital room is to see my children and grandchildren clearly again.”

Tom Davies' World Sight Day video for Orbis

Larry Benjamin, Retired Consultant Ophthalmologist and Orbis UK volunteer, said: “As an ophthalmology surgeon working in the NHS for the past 30 years, I know first-hand how debilitating cataracts, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy can be for the patients I treat. And we are at greater risk of developing these conditions as we age - which is why regular eye tests are so crucial. While it is understandable that many people have missed eye tests during the pandemic, getting your eyes checked is one of the best ways to love your eyes this World Sight Day.

Dr. Benjamin who has trained surgeons and treated patients for Orbis since 2004 in over 14 countries including Myanmar, Syria, Pakistan and Zambia highlights adds: “For people living in parts of the world with little or no access to eye care the inability to get eye care, like a routine cataract surgery or a pair of glasses, can keep a child from going to school, a woman from providing for herself and her family, and a man from seeing his grandchildren. Globally, children and adults have missed routine eye exams, and people are avoiding visits to eye health centers as they fear contracting COVID-19. It is vital Orbis reaches as many people as possible, to ensure more children and families can hope for a better future.”

David Bennett Director of Programme Support at Orbis UK, says: “Nearly everyone on the planet will experience an eye health issue in their lifetime, but not everyone will be able to get the care they need. Like NHS and high street eye-care teams, our eye health partners around the world have risen to the challenges brought about by the pandemic, continuing to deliver eye care in remote parts of the world whilst adhering to infection control guidelines to ensure patient safety.”

“Many people think an eye examination is only for getting a pair of glasses. They’re also important for identifying eye conditions early – before they lead to vision loss, and for taking care of your eyes so that you don’t miss any of life’s important moments.

“In many areas of the world where Orbis works, undiagnosed vision loss can have devastating consequences, plunging families into poverty. Having access to quality eye care transforms lives. It can open doors for getting an education, for being less likely to live in poverty, for gaining financial independence, and for being able to thrive.”

Even before the pandemic, the need for specialist eye doctors was already outpacing the numbers of trained experts in ophthalmic care. With 50% of people in Britain expressing concern about this, it’s clear the work of Orbis is more vital than ever.

Nearly 1 billion people live with completely avoidable vision loss. Don’t be one of them. Book an eye test as soon as you can.

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