The International Glaucoma Association (IGA) is calling on all drivers over 45 to get their eye sight tested, by asking them to consider their safety and that of their passengers and other road users. As part of the IGA’s ‘Are You Safe to Drive’ campaign, the focus for this year’s National Eye Health Week* (21-27 September) is the millions of drivers over the age of 45 that could be risking losing their driving licence and who could be a danger on the roads by not taking an eye test every 1-2 years as recommended. A recent survey by the IGA** showed that 18% of the 1,000 over 45s surveyed said they had either not had an eye test in the last five years, or had never had one at all, with marked difference between men and women (21 per cent versus 16 per cent).
With the autumn equinox on 23rd September heralding the darkening winter nights and the clocks due to go back on 25th October, the IGA points out that driving at night is when many people find that their eye sight is not as good as it should be. A recent survey by the Eyecare Trust and Westfield health insurers found that more than half of Britain’s 34 million motorists struggle to see when driving after dark, whilst many more avoid driving at night altogether. A separate three-year study conducted by Zurich found that accidents increased by 11 per cent in the fortnight directly after the clocks go back, compared to the preceding two weeks.
The recent IGA survey showed that financial considerations can prevent many people from having an eye test, as 36% of those surveyed said the reason they don’t take an eye test is that they worry about the cost. Patients living in the most deprived areas of the UK are predicted to be diagnosed with twice as much vision loss compared to those from the least deprived regions. The IGA together with the College of Optometrists is therefore announcing an 18 month research project in association with Deanna Taylor and Professor David Crabb of City University London, to hold pop up glaucoma testing clinics to see if public engagement or detection rate of suspect glaucoma is greater in ‘deprived’ areas, compared to more ‘prosperous’ areas.
Russell Young, CEO of the IGA comments, ‘For this year’s National Eye Health Week we are asking all drivers, especially those over the age of 45, to have regular eye health checks through a local optometrist (optician) to ensure they are safe to drive. We are delighted that Vision Express is offering free eye tests to anyone visiting its stores during the week.’
Continues Young: ‘We know that cost of eye tests can put people off having an eye test, so this National Eye Health Week we are pleased to announce our pop up eye clinic research study.
Results from this work will be used to show that glaucoma detection is a public health challenge, while the pop up clinic itself will be an opportunity for us to educate the public about glaucoma and the importance of regular eye tests and to provide information about local optometrists.’
Professor David Crabb of City University London comments ‘Retail pop up booths in high streets and in shopping centres are common – we propose one for glaucoma! The idea is to move glaucoma detection to communities that we think are hard to reach. The IGA funding is absolutely brilliant because it allows us to pilot the feasibility of glaucoma testing on the high street – literally!’
Glaucoma and Driving
With a sight loss condition such as glaucoma, drivers won’t know that they are putting their passengers at risk unless they have regular eye health checks. There are no early symptoms of glaucoma and the condition is more common in people over the age of 40. There is at least a four times increased risk of developing glaucoma if you have a close blood relative with the condition (father, mother, brother, sister, or child). People with glaucoma that has caused damage to vision in both eyes are required by law to report their condition to the DVLA. If they fail to do so they can face a criminal conviction, a fine up to £1000 and may be uninsured to drive. The IGA survey showed 5% of those surveyed wouldn’t report glaucoma to the DVLA if advised by a health professional, either because they think it would stop them from driving, or because they don’t think they need to.
Around 10 per cent of the calls to the IGA helpline (01233 648 178) are from people worried about whether their glaucoma is going to affect their ability to drive. Fortunately the majority of those that report to the DVLA will not need further tests, and of those that do, the majority will be found safe to drive
The IGA has a leaflet on glaucoma and driving, which is approved by the DVLA, which can be accessed by visiting www.glaucoma-association.com or via Sightline by calling 01233 64 81 78
Note to editors:
Glaucoma is the name given to a group of eye conditions in which the main nerve to the eye (the optic nerve) is damaged where it leaves the eye. This nerve carries information about what is being seen from the eye to the brain and as it becomes damaged vision is lost.
*National Eye Health Week
National Eye Health Week is an annual event where eye care charities, organisations and health professionals from across the UK join together to promote the importance of eye health and the need for regular sight tests for all.
**The survey was commissioned by the IGA through Red Dot Research on 14-19 May 2015 among more than 1,000 people over the age of 45 nationwide.
* Available on request.
For further information or to interview an IGA spokesperson, please contact:
Annabel Hillary, 07884 430862, firstname.lastname@example.org
Or Mary-Jane Greenhalgh, 07866 722051, email@example.com
or Karen Brewer on: DD: 01233 64 81 69; M: 07976 08 52 40; firstname.lastname@example.org,
For more information about glaucoma, visit: www.glaucoma-association.com
About the International Glaucoma Association:
1. The International Glaucoma Association (IGA) is the charity for people with glaucoma, with the mission to raise awareness of glaucoma, promote research related to early diagnosis and treatment, and to provide support to patients and all those who care for them. For more information, please visit:
2. Set up in 1974, it is the oldest patient based glaucoma association in the world and it is a Charity Registered in Scotland, England & Wales.
3. As part of its support services, it operates the IGA Sightline (helpline) and provides free information on any aspect of glaucoma.
4. For more information about glaucoma, contact the International Glaucoma Association (IGA) Sightline on 01233 64 81 78 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am–5.00pm).