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 Australia2, 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.

Specsavers Head of Optometry, Ben Ashby, says “In this day and age we shouldn’t be seeing people unnecessarily losing their vision but we are because eye health is just not a priority in the same way other health conditions like heart disease and cancer are. There is a worldwide issue with people not understanding the crucial importance of preventive eye care.”

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 20202 if people continue to ignore their eye health.

“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 and as many as 1 in 4 will live with an eye disease. Vision problems and eye diseases can affect anyone so just because you might have had good vision when you were younger doesn’t mean you are not at risk.

Often vision deterioration can be gradual and eye diseases can have no symptoms early on which is why we encourage people over the age of 40 to have their eyes tested by an optometrist every two years,” Ben said.

New research from Specsavers shows as many as 1 in 5 (21%) can’t see things in the distance as well as they used to, a big concern for safety on our roads, whilst a third (30%) reported keeping concerns to themselves about not being able to see things as well close up. Other common concerns being experienced include bright lights dazzling more than they used to (18%), glasses or contact lenses not seeming strong enough anymore (16%) and black spots or lines floating around their vision (16%).

To get the nation to prioritise their eye health this Eye Health Month, Specsavers has teamed up with TV icon Kerri-Anne Kennerley. No stranger to eye health herself, having previously had lens replacement surgery to correct her vision and now living with astigmatism, Kerri-Anne has also been by her mum’s side as she has experienced vision loss from both macular degeneration and cataracts.

Explaining her stance on eye health Kerri-Anne explains, “For me, it’s all about prevention. I’ve always been aware of the importance of eye health, not only because of the issues I’ve had with my own eyes but also because I’ve seen how eye diseases can affect your life. That’s why I’m a huge advocate for having regular eye tests.

“My mum has macular degeneration and cataracts so I’ve seen the effects of these diseases first-hand. Seeing how they have affected her quality of life has been extremely difficult, and I know that if detected sooner, a lot of her vision loss could have been prevented.”

Genetics can play a big part in eye health. Some diseases like macular degeneration and glaucoma are hereditary so people with a direct family history have a much higher chance (25%-50%)3 of developing the disease and yet more than half of Australians over 40 (54%) admit they haven’t had a conversation about their family’s eye health1. Because of this, Specsavers also encourages Australians to be aware of their family’s medical history.

“It’s really important for everyone to be aware of their family’s medical history. We tend to know if we have a family history of diabetes or cancer, but we should also know if we have a family history of eye disease… so we would encourage families to have those conversations,” Ben said.

Given her family history of eye health, Kerri-Anne is aware that she has a high chance of developing a sight threatening eye disease adding, “For me, having a history of vision problems and eye disease in my family means I’ll always have regular eye tests. It shocks me that people underestimate the importance of regular eye tests, with so many of these conditions having no symptoms. Whether you wear glasses or have perfect vision, everyone should get a check-up every couple of years because early detection and treatment can mean the difference between keeping and losing your sight.”

Specsavers’ Head of Optometry, Ben Ashby, adds, “It is very concerning to see the number of people over the age of 40 that aren’t getting their eyes tested regularly. In the past two years 4 million Australians over the age of 45 have had a comprehensive eye test through Medicare4, meaning as many as 58% are not following the industry recommendation of having their eyes tested at least every two years.”

“By getting your eyes tested every two years we able to compare your scans and map any changes to your eye health over time which helps to detect eye diseases early. But eye tests can also help detect other health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and even brain tumours. We want people to stop underestimating the importance of eye tests and start including them as part of their general health checks. And at Specsavers comprehensive eye checks are bulk billed*,” Ben concluded.

For more information or to book an eye test online, visit www.specsavers.com.au

Source: Specsavers