World Sight Day highlights the global problems of poor eyesight

This year’s World Sight Day, which took place on Thursday, October 10, has highlighted the global problems associated with poor eye health, which affects millions of people around the world.

World Sight Day is intended to raise public awareness of blindness and vision impairment as major international public health issues, as well as attempting to influence Governments to participate in and designate funds for national blindness prevention programmes.

It is also intended to raise awareness of the need to have regular comprehensive eye exams as part of ongoing monitoring of general health and wellbeing.

This year’s awareness campaign highlighted that, of a global population of 7.3bn people, 1.1bn suffer from some form of vision impairment because they did not have access to a pair of spectacles – and that 75% of the world’s visual impairment is avoidable.

And it serves as a reminder of the illnesses that can be associated with poor eye health such  as diabetic retinopathy, advanced macular degeneration (AMD), glaucoma, cataracts and more, which impact every age group and their wellbeing and  do not discriminate between gender, age or socio-economic background.

Eyecare services specialist, VSP Vision Care, welcomes the message that World Sight Day sends out every year.

The world’s largest not-for-profit vision eyecare services company with almost 90 million members worldwide, VSP Vision Care says the World Sight Day campaign is important because it encourages people to have regular eye tests – which have been proven conclusively to be essential in the early detection of some debilitating diseases and conditions.

For example, VSP research shows that in carrying out eye screening of VSP members, VSP optometrists were first to spot symptoms of early onset diabetes some 34% of the time.

Diabetes is potentially the biggest new threat for employees and employers alike. There are currently over four million people living with Type 2 diabetes in the UK, while an estimated 549,000 have the disease but have not yet been diagnosed, according to the International Diabetes Federation.

By 2025, it is estimated that five million people in Britain will have diabetes, adding to an NHS bill that currently runs to around £14 billion a year on treating diabetes and its complications. This figure does not reflect the cost of absence, reduced productivity and other costs such as healthcare management for employers.

Other medical conditions that were identified in VSP research included high blood pressure and high cholesterol readings.  The study showed that VSP optometrists were first to spot signs of high blood pressure 39% of the time and high cholesterol 62% of the time.

There is also a strong link between poor eye health and conditions such as high blood pressure, cataracts and diabetes, all of which are risk factors for glaucoma. A complicated disease that damages the optic nerve and leads to progressive, irreversible vision loss, glaucoma is often considered the second leading cause of blindness.

Jeremy Chadwick, Managing Director, EMEA at VSP Vision Care, said: “World Sight Day sends a message across the world that we should not take good eye health for granted and that there are many people around the world who suffer poor eye health for a variety of reasons.

“As eyesight can deteriorate without us noticing, we recommend having a professional comprehensive eye exam, ideally every year or straight away if indications of a problem arise. This should check vision, as well as other visual defects, including problems seeing things in the central or peripheral vision.

“Early detection of critical illness, like diabetes, glaucoma and AMD, can help nip future problems in the bud. That is why it is so important that employer-led eyecare programmes reach all employees.

“Thorough, regular examinations support early diagnosis of degenerative eye conditions, helping make earlier treatment possible and driving better outcomes for employees and employer alike, as well as reducing absenteeism rates,” he said.

For more information please contact: Suzanne Randall, Market Director UK and Ireland, +44 7720 243468 or email suzanne.randall@vsp.com