Sir George Young joined RNIB to launch their national glaucoma campaign in parliament. The campaign will see the charity touring 13 UK cities to raise public awareness of the condition that, if undetected, can lead to sight loss, without obvious symptoms in its early stages. Glaucoma can lead to blindness if not treated and is the most common cause of preventable blindness in the UK.
Sir George said “ I am concerned that everyone in North West Hampshire gets their eyes tested at least every two years to ensure that conditions like glaucoma are detected at an early stage and appropriate treatment undertaken. 200,000 people nationally have lost their sight through glaucoma and we need to do more to raise public awareness of the condition, especially amongst people with a family history of glaucoma, and people from African backgrounds, who are more at risk. I support RNIB’s campaign and wish them well with their national tour.
Steve Winyard, RNIB’s Head of Public Policy, said: “We are delighted that Sir George is supporting our campaign as it is hugely concerning that detection of glaucoma is so low and that so many people are needlessly losing their sight through what is essentially a treatable condition. That’s why regular eye tests are so vital. An eye test can save your sight.
“People need to be aware that glaucoma does not necessarily have any symptoms and that once you do have the symptoms it’s too late. Up to 40 per cent of useful sight can be lost before a person realises anything is wrong - but if caught early enough glaucoma can in nearly all cases be successfully treated and no sight need be lost.”
THOUSANDS NEEDLESSLY GOING BLIND
A report published by RNIB today (1) to coincide with the campaign launch shows a shocking lack of awareness of glaucoma with one in five people having never heard of the condition. Only two per cent of people aware of glaucoma knew it could lead to “tunnel vision” and just three per cent knew it could have no symptoms. Also less than one in five people knew that people with glaucoma or those specifically at risk were eligible for free eye tests.
Steve Winyard continued: “The simple message to everyone is - have regular eye tests. An eye test can save your sight. This is even more important to people over 40 and those with a close relative with glaucoma as they are at higher risk. People of African origin are four times more likely to develop glaucoma.
“RNIB is calling on the Government to fund a major public education campaign to promote the importance of eye tests as vital health checks which ensure the early detection of eye disease and the prevention of blindness.”
The campaign is supported by broadcaster Sir Trevor McDonald as well as other celebrities including writer and comedian Jenny Eclair and is launched today at a parliamentary event at the House of Commons. RNIB is also holding a series of seminars for health and social care professionals around the country and begins a 13-city UK “Roadshow” on 3 June where it will be holding exhibitions and providing information and advice to the public on glaucoma.
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Notes to Editors
1) Tunnel Vision, Steve Winyard, RNIB Campaign Report 24, May 2005. Survey carried out on behalf of RNIB by Taylor Nelson Sofres, Omnimas, 8 – 12 April 2005 with a sample of 1349 adults nationwide.
2) RNIB estimates that 216,000 people in the UK have a serious sight problem as a result of glaucoma (Tunnel Vision). The term serious sight problem means people with visual acuity less than 6/12 - this relates to a wide range of sight conditions from total blindness to not being able to see a friend across the street or read newsprint even with the aid of glasses.
3) You are entitled to free NHS eye tests if: you are aged 40 or over and have a close relative with diagnosed glaucoma, have diabetes or glaucoma, are aged 60 or over, are under 16, or under 19 and in full time education, you or your partner receive income support, family credit, income based job seekers allowance or disabled persons tax credit, are entitled to vouchers for complex lenses or if you are registered blind or partially sighted.