One in five Kiwis are putting their eye sight at risk by not seeking medical assistance according to new research released today.

The study found that while 89% of New Zealand adults have experienced a problem with their eyes, one in five (18%) of those people haven’t sought any medical assistance for it.

When asked why, almost half of respondents (47%) said it was either because they didn’t think there was anything wrong with their eye health or that they would rather wait for the problem to fix itself.

Specsavers Optometrist Ian Russell, says the research highlights the ‘she’ll be right’ culture in New Zealand, which can lead to serious eye problems not being detected until they are irreparable. This is because early detection of most eye conditions can prevent vision loss and blindness.

“Most people are going to experience an eye problem like red eyes, itchy eyes, floaters or changes to vision in their lifetime and often there may be no larger problem associated with it. However, many common eye problems could also be early signs of more serious eye issues, which could eventually lead to vision loss or blindness.

“For example, changes in vision may be the early signs of a sight-threatening condition such as macular degeneration; floaters or flashes of light could be symptoms of a retinal detachment; cloudy vision could be the early signs of a cataract and red eye may be caused by a serious corneal ulcer.”

Men were also more likely to say they’d rather wait to seek help until their eyes fixed themselves (26%) than women (18%).

Ian says, “Sometimes serious eye problems can progress quickly, so the best thing you can do when you experience a change is to see an optometrist right away.”

The data also revealed that New Zealanders are much more likely to treat eye infections or irritations with urgency than vision issues. More than two thirds (69%) of respondents said they would seek help for irritations or infections within a week, compared to just 44% for vision issues.

However, Ian says if you’re experiencing any problems with your eyes, the best thing to do is book an eye health check to check that your problem isn’t a sign of a more serious issue.

“Most Kiwis don’t realise that eye problems like conjunctivitis, inflamed eyes and gritty eyes can be treated by optometrists who are therapeutically qualified. These optometrists can prescribe antibiotics, antihistamines, anti-inflammatories and antiviral eye drops to assist with eye problems. By booking an eye health check, it means you can not only fix the problem, but also check the overall health of your eyes.”

In another step to aid early detection of serious eye problems, Specsavers practices nationwide recently introduced hospital-grade diagnostic imaging technology, OCT (Optical Coherence Tomography), which is enabling its optometrists to obtain more detailed information about the eye than ever before.

Common eye problems that an optometrist can treat:

Dry eyes
Teary or watery eyes
Itchy eyes
Red eyes
Problems seeing things in the distance or up close
Uncomfortable eyes
Gritty eyes
Cloudy vision

Data: YouGov, Commissioned by Specsavers, June 2019

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