National Glaucoma Awareness Week 2017 New Research Shows Lack of Awareness of the Need for Regular Eye Pressure Checks

9 June 2017

The International Glaucoma Association (IGA) reveals new research showing lack of awareness of the need to have regular eye pressure checks, as it launches its ‘Pressure checked? #GetEyeWise’ campaign for National Glaucoma Awareness Week, from 12-18 June.

In August 2016 a research team from City, University of London, led by Professor David Crabb, took a purpose-built healthcare Pop-Up into shopping centres across England. On some days the “Feeling The Pressure” Pop-Up offered free blood pressure and eye pressure checks to shoppers and on other days it just offered free eye pressure checks alone.

Some initial results from the research were recently presented at the European Academy of Optometry and Optics (EAOO) meeting in Barcelona (May 2017).

The researchers found people had far greater awareness of the need to have their blood pressure tested compared to having their eye pressure checked.  Significantly more people engaged with the Pop-Up on days when both blood and eye pressure checks were offered (60 per cent of all those tested) compared to the days when just eye pressure checks alone were offered (40 per cent of the total tested).

Researchers also asked shoppers what they knew about blood pressure and eye pressure before being tested. In total 71 per cent of shoppers had a good understanding of blood pressure but only 19 per cent knew anything at all about eye pressure.

“These results show a staggering lack of understanding and awareness about eye pressure in the general public”, said Laura Edwards, the research optometrist who tested more than 700 people during a marathon 16 days of testing.

Professor Crabb added, “As we know, eye pressure is one of the biggest risk factors for glaucoma. People generally get the idea that high blood pressure is a risk factor for heart disease and it’s a good thing to check it now and then. This is unsurprising because it has been a much repeated public health message over the years. Similarly we need to educate the public that there are parallels with eye pressure being a risk factor for potentially losing your sight. We also need to make sure people understand it is something that can be easily checked and something they ought to ask for when they next visit their optometrist or eye care professional”

Pressure checked? #GetEyeWise’

There are an estimated 64 million people with glaucoma worldwide and an estimated 600,000 people living with the condition in the UK today, half of whom are as yet undiagnosed.   Raised eye pressure can sometimes indicate glaucoma and in fact is the only modifiable risk factor for glaucoma, so this year’s campaign is to educate people about the importance of eye pressure as part of a regular eye health check. If detected early, glaucoma can be managed and useful sight can usually be maintained throughout life.

Karen Osborn, Chief Executive of the IGA, comments: “The research clearly showed that people are quite familiar with getting a blood pressure check, but are far less aware of the need for regular eye pressure checks. It is shocking that only one in five people in all of the locations visited knew about eye pressure.  If pressure is too high it can lead to irreversible damage to the optic nerve leading to loss of vision. Glaucoma is known as the silent thief of sight for a good reason, as the brain fills in the missing parts of vision and it isn’t until there is significant sight loss that a person thinks to visit an optometrist who can help to detect what is happening.  A significant amount of vision can be lost, and once lost it cannot be recovered.  We hope this year’s campaign will encourage eye pressure checks at least every two years and for over 40s every 1-2 years.”

Karen Osborn podcast highlighting the research findings.

What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is 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.

  • Glaucoma is more common in people over the age of 40.
  • There are often no early symptoms of glaucoma
  • Symptoms of advanced glaucoma include missing, patchy vision and even serious loss of vision
  • If left untreated glaucoma can lead to serious loss of vision, with up to 40% of sight being permanently lost before the effects are noticed
  • Most people with glaucoma will be safe to drive for many years, but it important to alert the DVLA to the condition if advised by an ophthalmologist.

Glaucoma eye tests
The IGA believes that everyone should have regular eye health checks, at least every two years (or every 1-2 years for over 40s). Glaucoma tests are quick, simple and convenient.  A visit to your local high-street optician is all that is needed to see if you are at risk of glaucoma. There are three simple tests which include:

  1. Looking at the appearance of the main nerve in the eye, called the optic nerve
  2. Measuring the pressure in the eye, often referred to as the air puff test
  3. Checking the field of vision.  In Scotland there is a fourth test which measures the corneal thickness

-ENDS-

Notes for editors:

The results of this research were first presented at: European Academy of Optometry and Optics (EAOO) Meeting in Barcelona 14 May 2017.

SCREENING FOR ELEVATED INTRAOCULAR PRESSURE (IOP) IN A SHOPPING CENTRE POP-UP USING ICARE TONOMETRY.

Edwards et al

This project is supported by an IGA/College of Optometrists Award (which is funded by the IGA and administered by the IGA in conjunction with the College of Optometrists) and by an EAME regional funding grant from Allergan.

Case Studies Available for Interview:

Georgie Morrell is a 30 year old comedian who was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis at three years old, which led to uveitis (inflammation of the eye) and glaucoma.  She has had various treatments and surgeries over the last 27 years.  She lost the sight in her left eye and was blind in her right eye for a year when she was 21, although she has since regained some sight in that eye.  Georgie’s sight problems have informed her career as a writer and comedian, so much so that she wrote a stand up routine called ‘A Poke in the Eye’ about her experience.

Hayley Burke is a 44 year old Family Support Practitioner at Ty Hafan Children’s Hospice in South Wales.  Hayley’s job involves driving round south west and mid-Wales to visit the families of children with terminal illness, so when Hayley was diagnosed with glaucoma at the age of 39, she was worried about whether she would be able to continue driving for her job.

Marilyn Jackson is a 63 year old humanist celebrant, based in Edinburgh.  She conducts non-religious weddings, baby naming ceremonies and funerals all across the east of Scotland, so when she discovered she had glaucoma she was worried how this would impact on her job.

About the International Glaucoma Association:

  1. The International Glaucoma Association (IGA) is the charity for people with glaucoma. Its mission is 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: www.glaucoma-association.com
  2. Set up in 1974, it is the oldest patient based glaucoma association in the world and it is a registered charity in England and Wales, and also in Scotland
  3. As part of its support services, the IGA operates the Sightline (telephone 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 70 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am–5.00pm).
  5. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland close relatives of people with glaucoma who are aged 40 plus can have a sight test and examination by an optometrist which is paid for by the NHS, and everyone aged 60 and over is entitled to free testing In Scotland, the NHS will pay for glaucoma examinations offered by optometrists, regardless of age.

For further information or, please contact: Annabel Hillary, 07884 430862, annabel@prwhenyouneedit.co.uk

or Mary-Jane Greenhalgh, 07866 722051, maryjane@prwhenyouneedit.co.uk

Karen Brewer, Head of Communications on 01233 64 81 69 or email marketing@iga.org.uk