RNIB chief warns number of people losing their sight every day is “frightening”
Wednesday, 20 September 2017
Findings from a new report published by RNIB and Specsavers, suggest the eye health crisis is set to deepen. Interim Chief Executive of RNIB, Sally Harvey and Specsavers Optometrist, Dr Nigel Best, sheds light on some of the key report findings.
The report has found 250 people start to lose their sight every day in the UK. In addition, one in five people will live with sight loss in their lifetime and almost one in four people are ignoring the first signs of sight loss.
This is an edited version of an interview recorded for RNIB Connect Radio earlier in September.
More people than ever are losing their sight
Sally said: “The report has found that 250 people start to lose their sight in the UK every day, which is a frightening figure. One in four women will develop sight loss compared to one in eight men. And overall, one in five people lose their sight really does emphasise why eye health checks are necessary.
“What we hope the report will do is raise awareness about the importance of having a regular eye tests. It’s shocking when you think that some people service their boilers more often than have their eyes tested.”
Other health issues can be spotted during an eye test
Nigel said: “It’s important that people see eye health as crucially linked to their overall health. A sight test can identify conditions that may otherwise not have been detected. People mustn’t wait until they have difficulty seeing before they book a test.
“As part of a sight test, a qualified optician will examine the back of the person’s eyes and the blood vessels. They will be able to spot signs of high blood pressure, diabetes or cholesterol.
“Just recently, my colleague identified some changes on the retina of a 12–year-old boy which turned out to be leukaemia. For all intents and purposes, he was a very healthy child who’s now receiving treatment. This just goes to show eye tests go well beyond just checking for eye conditions. “
People fear hearing a bad diagnosis
Nigel said: “Anecdotally speaking, it’s not uncommon for patients to come in to me and say ‘I hate having my eyes tested. I’m absolutely terrified’.
“Eye tests are fairly non-invasive and as optometrists, we do everything we can to put their minds at rest. But I think for some people, it’s more the fear of what the eye examination might show them. Maybe they have a friend or a relative who’ve had their eyes tested and were told they had an eye condition.
“Of course, some health problems won’t actually cause any symptoms, or not until they are quite advanced. I would be reluctant to say to people, ‘only get your eyes tested if you experience problems’, but instead, regardless of whether they’re having problems with their vision, they should go and have their eyes tested every couple of years.”
Politicians need to get behind the eye health message
Sally: “However exciting and powerful the partnership between Specsavers and RNIB is, ensuring the messages in this report are understood and owned by the wider sector and by politicians, is going to be critical in ensuring that avoidable sight loss can be prevented.
“For anyone who loses their sight, RNIB is here to make sure they know where to go to access the right support and services they need.”