An alarming number of Australians fail to seek help to correct vision problems despite knowing or suspecting their sight is failing, potentially putting themselves and others at risk, according to OPSM.
Research commissioned by the eye care retailer involving more than 1,000 adults showed that almost one in four – or four million people across the entire population – believed they had deteriorating vision, but had not purchased prescription eyewear.
OPSM’s National Professional Services Manager, Luke Cahill, said untreated vision on such a large scale presented unacceptably high risks in the community, especially for those driving, operating heavy machinery or otherwise responsible for the safety of others.
“But untreated, impaired vision is a deeper issue that goes much further. Not only does it affect capacity to work and carry out daily activities, but for children it delays educational, physical or social development.
“We believe people should have their eyes tested every two years. Early detection is the best way to identify effective ways to correct vision and prevent further damage,” he said.
The OPSM research revealed that 46 per cent of Australians were unaware they were eligible for a Medicare rebate on a standard eye test every two years. According to Medicare data, just over 2.9 million Australians had their eyes tested in 2008.
Mr. Cahill said: “The fact that almost half of Australians are unaware of the Medicare rebate on eye tests may be one reason so many people are neglecting their eye health.”
In Australia, 80 per cent of vision impairment is caused by one of five conditions: refractive error (i.e. long sightedness and short sightedness); macular degeneration; glaucoma; cataract and diabetes. Half of vision problems detected are correctable and one-quarter is preventable¹.
The tell-tale symptoms of impaired vision are: headaches; blurred or double vision; difficulty reading and watching TV; and sore or tired eyes. In extreme cases, the implications of not correcting poor vision can include accidents and falls, diminished independence and health consequences such as depression.
“We understand some people are nervous about having their vision tested for the first time and our experienced eye care professionals are trained to help them through the process,” said Mr. Cahill.
Many eye diseases can cause serious vision problems, or even loss, if they go untreated. Early detection can make a considerable difference in the effectiveness of the eye treatment.
Mr. Cahill added: “It’s important people realise that health vision checks can also provide an invaluable way of detecting other serious health problems such as hypertension, diabetes and other neurological disorders.”