More Than 7 Million Australians Over The Age Of 40 Are Putting Their Sight At Risk By Failing To See An Optometrist For Vision Problems
Australians are putting their sight needlessly at risk as new research reveals as many as 2 in 3 people over the age of 40 are currently experiencing a problem with their eyes but failing to get their eyes checked by an optometrist.
With uncorrected vision problems being the number one cause of vision loss in Australia, experts are warning that if Australians don't get serious about their eye health, and start taking preventative measures to look after their eyesight, the number of people over the age of 40 with vision loss will rise exponentially over the coming years as our population ages.
Currently over 420,000 Australians over the age of 40 are experiencing vision loss as a result of uncorrected vision problems with another 300,000 as a result of eye diseases such as macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabetic eye disease2. These numbers are expected to rise by as much as 9% by 2020 if people continue to ignore their eye health.
Interview with Ben Ashby, Specsavers Head of Optometry
Question: What message do you hope to spread for Eye Health Month?
Ben Ashby: Our research reveals as many as 2 in 3 people over the age of 40 are currently experiencing a problem with their eyes but failing to get their eyes checked by an optometrist. With uncorrected vision problems being the number one cause of vision loss in Australia, this July Eye Health Month we are encouraging Australians to get serious about their eye health and commit to regular eye tests.
Question: Why is it important that we prioritise eye health?
Ben Ashby: Our research shows 2 in 3 Australians over 40 are experiencing vision problems they haven't spoken to a health care professional about, a huge concern for the nation as uncorrected vision problems are the main cause of vision loss in Australia. Currently over 420,000 Australians over the age of 40 are experiencing vision loss as a result of uncorrected vision problems with another 300,000 as a result of eye diseases such as macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabetic eye disease. Regular eye tests are key to treat vision problems as well as early detection of these eye conditions which can often have little or no visible symptoms but if detected early, can be treated or even prevented.
Question: What was most surprising about the new Specsavers research?
Ben Ashby: We are well aware that as a nation, we are not prioritising our eye health though it was alarming to see that as many as 2 in 3 are actually aware they are experiencing vision problems yet haven't spoken with a health care professional about these. Not only is this a concern because uncorrected vision problems can cause vision loss, but 1 in 5 (21%) reported distance vision problems which is a major concern for safety on our roads.
Question: Why do you think so many Australians are failing to undergo eye tests every 2 years?
Ben Ashby: A lot of people don't take preventive measures to look after their eye health because there is not the same level of awareness as other health conditions and people often have no idea they may have a problem that could result in them losing their sight little by little. Our research has shown that a quarter (24%) of Australians aged 40+ state time as being a main reason for not getting regular eye tests. People dedicate the time to get regular health checks with their doctor or dentist but don't dedicate the same kind of time for their eyes. An eye test every 2 years can make all the difference and help prevent avoidable vision loss. Cost can also play a significant factor with 17% of Australians over 40 stating this as a barrier, with many Australians unaware that at Specsavers comprehensive eye tests are bulk billed with a valid Medicare card. Finally, almost 1 in 5 (16%) simply don't think there is anything wrong with their eyes, though we know sometimes small differences in vision can go unnoticed. Eye tests can detect much more than just vision problems – they can detect eye diseases which can have little or no visible symptoms, making regular eye tests even more important for early detection of these conditions.
Question: Why is it crucial that Australians undergo eye checks every 2 years, as recommended?
Ben Ashby: From the age of 40 our eyes start to change and by the age of 65, almost all of us will need to wear glasses to correct a vision problem, whilst as many as 1 in 4 will live with an eye disease. Even if you have no vision problems you should have your eyes routinely tested. Eye conditions like glaucoma and macular degeneration have little or no visible symptoms in early stages when they can be treated or even prevented, but if you leave them undetected for too long, your vision can be irreversibly lost.
Question: What common eye conditions does an eye check test?
Ben Ashby: Eye tests can be used to diagnose a number of eye conditions from a simple refractive error, where eyes become out of focus, causing them to get strained and blurry, through to astigmatism, glaucoma, macular degeneration, cataracts and diabetic retinopathy. As part of a comprehensive eye test at Specsavers, patients undergo diagnostic tests and examinations that look deep into the eye, allowing the optometrist to see significant detail of the eye including the blood vessels which means other health conditions like high cholesterol and blood pressure can be detected through eye tests.
Interview by Brooke Hunter