Why people should see eye tests as a priority
Eye Tests Many people still put their eyesight at risk by failing to attend regular check-ups. A new report explains how Governments and services must start working to put this right.
In a recent poll 6,430 adults were asked why they had not been for an eye test in the past two years. Out of three possible responses, which do you think was the most common answer they gave?
- "There’s nothing wrong with my eyes"
- "No time for an eye test"
- "New glasses are too expensive"
According to a new report from sight loss charity the Royal National Institute of Blind People RNIB and optometry company Specsavers, the top answer given (by 33 per cent of respondents) is that 'people think they can tell for themselves when there is anything wrong with their eyes'. The next most popular answer (by 24 per cent) is a 'lack of time', followed by 'the cost of glasses', mentioned by 17 per cent.
"People think they can tell for themselves when there is anything wrong with their eyes."
In the report, The State of the Nation Eye Health 2017: A Year in Review, almost a quarter of respondents admitted that they could not see as well in the distance or close up as they used to, yet had not yet sought advice. Commenting, Specsavers’ clinical spokesperson Dr Nigel Best said: “The findings are very worrying because it shows that people are waiting for signs of sight loss before visiting an optician. This means that they are potentially preventing their optician from detecting signs of eye health problems or other medical issues at an early stage, which we know is important if some potentially irreversible eye sight loss is to be avoided."
Looking at the nation’s second biggest concern – the time it takes to have an eye test - Dr Best encourages people to put this into perspective. An average eye test takes between 20-30 minutes, during which time you will receive a-three-in-one check-up: an eye sight check, an eye health check, looking for signs of eye problems such as cataracts, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration, and a general health check, looking for signs in the eye of potentially silent, but killer conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
"A 20-minute test that could save your life."
If you think how long you can spend discussing a new mobile phone contract (something you will also do typically every two years) or waiting in for your boiler to be serviced (something you might do twice in two years) - compared to a 20-minute test that could save your life, then the decision becomes a bit of a ‘no-brainer’, Dr Best believes.
Photo credit: Specsavers
Concerned about cost
Tackling the cost question, Dr Best points out that an eye test costs on average around £20-25, or £10-12.50 a year – which is far less than most people spend on coffee and snacks in an average week. Depending on where you live or your age, NHS eye tests can be free and if not, there can be financial support, including for glasses. Dr Best says: “Cost should not, and need not, be a barrier.”
So what would make you admit there was something wrong with your eyes and go and book in for an eye test?
According to the RNIB/Specsavers report, most commonly people say it would be:
- "When reading became difficult" (58 per cent)
- "Having problems reading a digital screen" (46 per cent)
- "Starting to have headaches or tired eyes" (45 per cent)
Although these are all good reasons for an eye test, the experts at the RNIB/ Specsavers believe that all players in the eye care continuum – including Government and the UK’s eye care service providers - have a part to play in making it as easy as possible for people to get the eye care services they need, when and where they need them.
"Depending on where you live or your age, eye tests can be free or there can be financial support."
Projections suggest that the number of people living with sight loss will increase to more than four million in 2050, as the UK population ages. And if UK eyecare services are to cope, things need to change. In conjunction with colleagues across the eye health and sight loss sectors RNIB and Specsavers are committed to using their new report to direct policy makers to target services more effectively and encourage people to take up. RNIB CEO Sally Harvey says: “We hope it supports strategic thinking as we work together to transform eye health and take steps to stop people losing their sight unnecessarily.”