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9 June 2014

3m Brits at risk of preventable sight loss

Despite opticians being trained to spot health issues, one in ten of Britons over the age of 40 are putting themselves at risk from the serious eye condition, glaucoma, by never or not having taken an eye test in the last five years.

Even among people who are aware of glaucoma, less than half (48%) know glaucoma has no obvious early symptoms that can only be detected by an optician or an eye care professional.

These are the findings of research carried out by Fly Research, on behalf of the International Glaucoma Association, the charity for people with glaucoma, to coincide with National Glaucoma Awareness Week (9 to 15 June 2014).

Russell Young, CEO, IGA commented: “The good news is 49 per cent of people over the age of 40 are having an eye test every two or three years and 32% every year, but, what’s worrying, is that a significant minority still aren’t visiting opticians regularly, despite free eye tests available to groups most at risk**. Glaucoma, which is one of the leading causes of preventable blindness, has no obvious early symptoms, and it isn’t until the condition is fairly advanced that the individual recognises that something is wrong with their vision. Once vision is lost, it cannot be recovered.”

Repeated research shows sight is the sense that people fear to lose the most. With opticians on every high street, it is easy for eye conditions to be detected early and treated. Treatment, often in the form of eye drops, means that most people will retain useful sight for life.

Young continues, “Glaucoma has commonly been described as tunnel vision, yet this is rare. It is far more common for people to experience patchy or misty vision in places. Encouragingly, our research shows the role of the optician as a health professional is largely understood with the majority (89 per cent) being aware that the optician can detect eye conditions that can lead to loss of sight if not successfully treated”.

This year’s National Glaucoma Awareness Week 2014 is urging everyone over the age of 40 to take Action for Sight, and have regular eye tests, particularly if they are at an increased risk of developing glaucoma. This includes people of African-Caribbean origin, who are four times more likely to develop the condition, more likely for it to appear earlier, and for it to be more severe, when compared to people of European origin.

The IGA is supporting the Action for Sight campaign through awareness packs distributed via hospitals, opticians, and through our members and volunteers. Advertising at bus shelters in London and promotions with The Voice newspaper and Nigerian Watch newspaper and website will focus on the increased need for the African-Caribbean population to book an eye test.

“With an ageing population and predictions that the black and minority ethnic community will increase to 30 per cent of the population by 2050***, the role of the optician has never been more important. Early detection and treatment literally saves sight, as over 90% of individuals who are diagnosed early will retain useful sight for life. Despite such promising results, it is estimated over 50% of cases of glaucoma remain undetected in the UK,” Young concludes.


Notes for editors:

For further information or to interview an IGA spokesperson, please contact: Karen Brewer on:

DD: 01233 64 81 69; M: 07976 08 52 40; For more information about glaucoma, visit:

Survey of 1039 respondents over the age of 40 in the UK, conducted in April 2014 by Fly Research Ltd on behalf of IGA.


Office for National Statistics, Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency


National Records of Scotland © Crown Copyright 2012

**people over the age of 60, under 16 or under 19 and in full time education, live in Scotland, have diabetes or glaucoma, over 40 and have a close relative with glaucoma, have been advised by an ophthalmologist that you are at risk of glaucoma, registered as visually impaired, are entitled to vouchers for complex lenses, a prisoner or on leave from prison, a person or partner receives Income Support, Family Credit, Income Based Job Seekers Allowance, Income Based Job Seekers Allowance, Income Based Employment and Support Allowance (non contribution based), Pension Credit Guarantee and are entitled to or named on a valid NHS Tax Credit Exemption Certificate or are named on a valid HC2 or HC3 Certificate.

***Policy Exchange “A Portrait of Modern Britain, 2014