The new Specsavers Eye Health Report, released in the lead up to World Glaucoma Week (6-12 March), has revealed that 68% of Gen X, classed as those born between 1965 and 1980, are likely to put off having an eye test, putting them at risk of missing the early signs of diseases such as glaucoma, which is the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide.
The risk of developing glaucoma increases with age, and people aged 40+ have a higher chance of contracting the disease. Given the low number of Gen X'ers taking the time to have an eye test, the generation is in danger of developing bad eye health habits that could put their eye sight at risk.
Worryingly, more than half (56%) of Australians are likely to put off having an eye test, and one in two people with glaucoma in Australia are undiagnosed. The research however did reveal that Baby Boomers are the most proactive generation when it comes to eye health, with 64% likely to prioritise having an eye test.
Glaucoma has few symptoms until the disease has reached an advanced stage and if left too late, vision cannot be restored. Regular eye tests are the best form of prevention as detecting glaucoma early means action can be taken to prevent significant loss of vision or even blindness.
This year, Specsavers is working with Glaucoma Australia to raise awareness for World Glaucoma Week, and is urging Australians to make their eye health a priority by booking an eye test at their nearest Specsavers store. Specsavers is also encouraging Australians to talk about the condition with family, as glaucoma is commonly a hereditary disease with first relatives of people with glaucoma being ten times more likely to develop the disease.
Peter Larsen, Optometrist and Professional Services Director at Specsavers, says, 'Specsavers is supporting Glaucoma Australia on their quest to raise awareness of glaucoma, the leading cause of blindness worldwide, and is urging Australians to have their eyes tested this World Glaucoma Week. It is alarming that so many members of Gen X are not aware of the importance of regular eye tests, especially as they reach a high risk age group.
'We recommend having eye tests every two years and at Specsavers we offer comprehensive eye tests at stores nationwide, which include free Digital Retinal Photography, a simple procedure that helps to detect and mange potential sight threatening diseases such as glaucoma."
Although there is no cure for glaucoma, early detection can slow down the degeneration of eyesight, and treatment such as surgery and eye drops can be used to prevent further blindness. Irreparable damage to the optical nerve is often caused when aqueous fluid in the eye, which helps the eye keep its shape, is unable to drain properly, causing a blockage and additional pressure in the eye.
Question: What message would you like to get across this World Glaucoma Week?
Peter Larsen: Specsavers is working with Glaucoma Australia to encourage Australians to have their eyes tested by the optometrist at their nearest Specsavers store this World Glaucoma Week. Many eye diseases, such as glaucoma, can only be detected through an eye test, which is why it's so alarming that 56% of Australians and 68% of Gen X have put off having an eye test. Specsavers has released these results to coincide with World Glaucoma Week, and is urging all Australians to book an eye test.
Question: Why do you believe 68% of Gen X are putting off having an eye test?
Peter Larsen: Having an eye test every two years should be something that people prioritise, and is as important as a check-up at your doctor. As glaucoma is more prevalent in people over 40 years old, it is important that Gen X (1965 - 1980) ensure an eye test is top of mind.
Question: Is this the same reason 56% of Australians are likely to put off having an eye test?
Peter Larsen: Yes, most people don't think that their eye sight could be at risk of deteriorating from diseases such as glaucoma, and many people take their eye sight for granted.
Question: What is Glaucoma?
Peter Larsen: Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness worldwide, and one of the causes may be high pressure in the eye, however at least half of the cases of glaucoma occur with normal or low pressure. That is why early detection is dependent on the optometrist carefully looking at the optic nerve at the back of the eye to look for degenerative signs
Question: What are the early signs of Glaucoma?
Peter Larsen: There are very few early signs of glaucoma, and often the only signs occur when glaucoma has reached an advanced stage and eyesight has already been lost. Damage to vision progresses very slowly, starting with peripheral vision, and will often result in -tunnel vision', as the side vision deteriorates over time. It's important to have regular eye tests to ensure diseases such as glaucoma are picked up early.
Question: Can you share with us the risk factors associated with Glaucoma?
Peter Larsen: Those most at risk of glaucoma are people who have a family history of the disease, which is why it is so important to know your family history and speak with relatives about their experiences. Other risk factors include diabetes, migraines, short or long sightedness, high blood pressure and eye injuries. Glaucoma is also more prevalent in those aged 40 plus.
Question: How is Glaucoma treated?
Peter Larsen: We recommend an eye test every two years as early detection allows for the best treatment. Eye drops are the main treatment for glaucoma, which can help to prevent blindness or slow down the rate at which blindness is progressing. If there is no response to eye drops, laser eye surgery can be performed.
Question: How often should we have our eyes tested and does this change, as we age?
Peter Larsen: No matter what your age, I recommend having an eye test every two years to detect potential sight threatening diseases such as glaucoma. As we age we are more at risk of developing these diseases, particularly once we reach 40, which is why it's so important to stay on top of regular eye tests. At Specsavers eye tests are covered by Medicare, and this World Glaucoma Week we are encouraging Australians to book an eye test at their nearest Specsavers store.
Interview by Brooke Hunter