Missed eye tests during the lockdown and reduced optometrist capacity could mean serious eye conditions including glaucoma and macular generation may not be getting diagnosed, a charity has warned.
Eye Health UK estimated that five million routine eye appointments were missed because of the Covid-19 pandemic which, coupled with low public awareness of the symptoms of eye disease, meant there could be a surge in cases of avoidable sight loss.
It is thought that around six million people in the UK are living with sight-threatening conditions or uncorrected refractive error, such as short sightedness.
Speaking ahead of National Eye Health Week, which runs from 21 to 27 September, Eye Health UK chairman David Cartwright said: “Even slightly reduced vision can have an impact on your mental health – increasing the risk of depression three-fold.
“It can also affect your physical wellbeing – more than doubling the risk of falls, for example, as well as taking a toll on educational performance and social activities.”
A recent University of London study into age-related macular degeneration found the most common reason for patients delaying getting treated was not attributing their symptoms to the condition. This was because they either lacked knowledge about its symptoms or attributed their symptoms to another eye problem, such as simply needing stronger spectacles.
Many also delayed making an appointment with an optician because they did not perceive their symptoms as urgent or important.
Minister for prevention, public health and primary care, Jo Churchill, said: “Protecting the health of our eyes is incredibly important – but it’s something that too often gets overlooked.
“Eye care services are open and practising safely across the country to provide advice and support in Covid secure environments. I would urge everyone to take care of their sight and have it tested regularly.”