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Glaucoma Awareness Week starts 26 June

Experts warn of hidden danger of glaucoma in adults of all ages

  • Data shows nearly a third of glaucoma referrals for people between 40 and 60 years old in the last 12 months
  • Regular eye tests are vital for everyone of all ages to detect glaucoma early and save their sight, as the disease is often symptomless

NEW data from Specsavers reveals there have been 30,000 referrals for glaucoma in people aged 40–60 years in the last year; accounting for nearly a third (30%) of all glaucoma referrals.[1]

While glaucoma typically becomes more common with age, this Glaucoma Awareness Week (26 June – 2 July), Specsavers and Glaucoma UK, are reminding people of all ages to have regular eye tests to help protect them from the disease, which is one of the leading causes of blindness in the world.[2]

Giles Edmonds, Clinical Services Director at Specsavers says: ‘Our data shows that glaucoma can affect people of all ages. Although most will not experience any symptoms, glaucoma can lead to loss of vision if it’s not detected and treated early. Vision lost to glaucoma cannot be recovered, but with early detection, careful monitoring and regular treatment, most people retain useful sight for life. Having an eye test at least every two years, regardless of your age or whether you’re experiencing vision issues or symptoms – is so important.’

Alarmingly, a fifth of the population (21%) still don’t know how often they should visit their optician for a routine check-up and the same percentage either can’t remember their last eye examination or have never had one.[3]  A recent survey also revealed that less than one in four (23%) had undergone an eye test in the last two years,[4] despite eye tests being recommended at least every two years.

Long NHS waiting lists, exacerbated by the pandemic, remain a problem as NHS eye care services are facing a growing demand for care. Latest figures show there are 628,502 people waiting for NHS ophthalmology appointments.[5]

Professor Roshini Sanders, consultant ophthalmologist at Queen Margaret Hospital in Fife, led a team which developed a pathway for people with low-risk glaucoma to undergo treatment in the community with their local optometrist.  She says: ‘The biggest challenge when it comes to glaucoma is not seeing people in time. Patients must be seen quickly, either in hospitals or in community clinics, as this is the single most important step in preventing blindness. Too many people around the UK are losing their sight whilst sat on NHS waiting lists.

‘If glaucoma is detected during an eye test, high street optometrists can share data with the glaucoma team at Queen Margaret’s. This ensure patients who need to be seen in hospital are referred quickly. Treating low risk cases at local optometrists helps to ease hospital capacity and ensure glaucoma patients are seen sooner.’

Mr Edmonds says: ‘This is a great example of an innovative pathway designed to improve outcomes for patients, but this success is patchy – especially in England. We need national agreement to implement new pathways to improve glaucoma care to help save sight.’

Joanne Creighton, Chief Executive of Glaucoma UK adds: ‘As a charity that provides help and support to everyone living with glaucoma, Glaucoma Awareness Week is an opportunity to highlight the fact that an estimated 350,000 people in the UK are unaware they have glaucoma[6]. Glaucoma can be symptomless, and people could lose sight to the disease before they’re able to spot the signs. An optometrist can identify glaucoma at a routine eye appointment at your local opticians, which is why we urge everyone to book an eye test and save their sight.’

The Royal College of Ophthalmologists anticipates a 44% increase in demand for glaucoma services by 2035[7]

Glaucoma accounts for more than 20% of outpatient appointments in hospital eye care

[1] Specsavers data on file: 01-04-2022 – 30-04-2023

[2] https://www.glaucoma.org/glaucoma/glaucoma-facts-and-stats.php

[3] Specsavers survey conducted by OnePoll among 2,000 respondents in August 2022

[4] Public Perceptions Research 2023. General Optical Council. Based on a UK representative sample of 2,020   interviews conducted between 27 January until 13 February 2023

[5] NHS patient backlogs are leading to life changing sight loss FOI request reveals (aop.org.uk)

[6]  https://www.glaucoma.org/glaucoma/glaucoma-facts-and-stats.php

[7] Help & Support For People Living With Glaucoma | Glaucoma UK

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