Almost half of people in Wales (45 per cent) don’t know what glaucoma is, despite it being the world’s leading cause of irreversible blindness.
The shock statistic came to light in a survey conducted to mark World Sight Day (October 13) by Specsavers.
It revealed worrying misconceptions around glaucoma (a group of eye diseases that damage the optic nerve) – 25 per cent of people in Wales don’t worry about it because they think ‘it’s rare’ while 39 per cent wrongly believe it can be ‘cured’.
Alarmingly, a fifth of people in Wales (21 per cent) still don’t know how often they should visit their optician for a routine check-up and the same percentage either can’t remember their last eye examination or have never had one.
According to the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) 1,940 people in Powys are estimated to be living with glaucoma. This is expected to rise by 14 per cent between 2022 and 2032.
Donna Like, Specsavers’ Brecon director, described the findings as deeply concerning.
“Glaucoma can be symptomless which is why only half of those affected even know they have the condition,” said Ms Like.
“While it cannot simply be cured or reversed, early treatment can be particularly effective in slowing or preventing vision loss, so it is crucial that it is detected at the first possibly opportunity. That’s why it is critical that we educate the public on glaucoma and the importance of regular eye examinations.”
A staggering 50 per cent of all sight loss is avoidable and Specsavers believes nobody should have to live with sight loss that could be avoided.
That’s one of the key messages in its latest report, released last week, entitled The State of the UK’s Eye Health 2022.
It paints a stark picture, highlighting the link between sight loss and an increase in risk of loneliness, isolation and other health conditions such as clinical depression, diabetes, dementia and stroke.
It also looks at the huge economic cost of sight loss and blindness.
In 2019, this was an estimated £36 billion and, due to the pandemic, this is expected to rise by a further £2.5 billion by 2024.
Expert contributors to the report include Glaucoma UK as well as Visionary, the umbrella body for local sight charities, which helped track trends in sight impairment registrations.
Fiona Sandford, chief executive of Visionary UK, said: “Since the pandemic, local sight loss charities across the UK have seen a significant increase in people seeking support.
“Many more people are registering as blind or partially sighted or having problems with their vision.
“Living with sight loss causes challenges and difficulties regardless of circumstances. However, knowing that sight may have been saved can cause additional stress and anxiety.
“That is why it is so important that we all keep fighting for early intervention and care – to give everyone the best possible chance of retaining sight for as long as possible and ensuring if their vision does deteriorate or is lost, then care and support is available locally.’