New Research Shows Lack of Awareness of the Need for Regular Eye Pressure Checks
The International Glaucoma Association (IGA) reveals new research showing lack of awareness of the need to have regular eye pressure checks, as it launches its ‘Pressure checked? #GetEyeWise’ campaign for National Glaucoma Awareness Week, from 12-18 June.
In August 2016 a research team from City, University of London, led by Professor David Crabb, took a purpose-built healthcare Pop-Up into shopping centres across England. On some days the “Feeling The Pressure” Pop-Up offered free blood pressure and eye pressure checks to shoppers and on other days it just offered free eye pressure checks alone.
Some initial results from the research were recently presented at the European Academy of Optometry and Optics (EAOO) meeting in Barcelona (May 2017).
The researchers found people had far greater awareness of the need to have their blood pressure tested compared to having their eye pressure checked. Significantly more people engaged with the Pop-Up on days when both blood and eye pressure checks were offered (60 per cent of all those tested) compared to the days when just eye pressure checks alone were offered (40 per cent of the total tested).
Researchers also asked shoppers what they knew about blood pressure and eye pressure before being tested. In total 71 per cent of shoppers had a good understanding of blood pressure but only 19 per cent knew anything at all about eye pressure.
“These results show a staggering lack of understanding and awareness about eye pressure in the general public”, said Laura Edwards, the research optometrist who tested more than 700 people during a marathon 16 days of testing.
Professor Crabb added, “As we know, eye pressure is one of the biggest risk factors for glaucoma. People generally get the idea that high blood pressure is a risk factor for heart disease and it’s a good thing to check it now and then. This is unsurprising because it has been a much repeated public health message over the years. Similarly we need to educate the public that there are parallels with eye pressure being a risk factor for potentially losing your sight. We also need to make sure people understand it is something that can be easily checked and something they ought to ask for when they next visit their optometrist or eye care professional”
‘Pressure checked? #GetEyeWise’
There are an estimated 64 million people with glaucoma worldwide and an estimated 600,000 people living with the condition in the UK today, half of whom are as yet undiagnosed. Raised eye pressure can sometimes indicate glaucoma and in fact is the only modifiable risk factor for glaucoma, so this year’s campaign is to educate people about the importance of eye pressure as part of a regular eye health check. If detected early, glaucoma can be managed and useful sight can usually be maintained throughout life.
Karen Osborn, Chief Executive of the IGA, comments: “The research clearly showed that people are quite familiar with getting a blood pressure check, but are far less aware of the need for regular eye pressure checks. It is shocking that only one in five people in all of the locations visited knew about eye pressure. If pressure is too high it can lead to irreversible damage to the optic nerve leading to loss of vision. Glaucoma is known as the silent thief of sight for a good reason, as the brain fills in the missing parts of vision and it isn’t until there is significant sight loss that a person thinks to visit an optometrist who can help to detect what is happening. A significant amount of vision can be lost, and once lost it cannot be recovered. We hope this year’s campaign will encourage eye pressure checks at least every two years and for over 40s every 1-2 years.”
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions in which the main nerve to the eye (the optic nerve) is damaged where it leaves the eye. This nerve carries information about what is being seen from the eye to the brain and as it becomes damaged vision is lost.
Glaucoma is more common in people over the age of 40.
There are often no early symptoms of glaucoma
Symptoms of advanced glaucoma include missing, patchy vision and even serious loss of vision
If left untreated glaucoma can lead to serious loss of vision, with up to 40% of sight being permanently lost before the effects are noticed
Most people with glaucoma will be safe to drive for many years, but it important to alert the DVLA to the condition if advised by an ophthalmologist.
Glaucoma eye tests
The IGA believes that everyone should have regular eye health checks, at least every two years (or every 1-2 years for over 40s). Glaucoma tests are quick, simple and convenient. A visit to your local high-street optician is all that is needed to see if you are at risk of glaucoma. There are three simple tests which include:
Looking at the appearance of the main nerve in the eye, called the optic nerve
Measuring the pressure in the eye, often referred to as the air puff test
Checking the field of vision.
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