Experts warn pandemic has put ticking timebomb on our eyes and health in London


THOUSANDS of people in London could be walking around with undetected serious eye and health conditions, such as glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration and even heart disease, because they’ve missed their regular eye test.

Findings released by Specsavers indicate that, between March and September 2020 one in two people (51%) in London missed an eye test, meaning many may have an eye or health condition that they are unaware of. In total across London, there were 341,496 missed sight tests.

Further research by Specsavers has revealed that at least one in five people (18%) in London fear they might have a serious underlying sight condition, while one in ten (8%) worry that they have a potentially significant issue with their hearing.

While (38%) of London adults think either their sight, hearing or both have deteriorated since the pandemic began – half of those (46%) have not yet booked a test.

According to the research as part of Specsavers Hindsight Report, one in four (25%) people in London have also missed a hearing test in the last year.

Giles Edmonds, Specsavers Clinical services director, says: ‘Regular examinations are capable of picking up so much more than whether or not someone can see normally.

‘During the last 12 months we have made far fewer referrals and detected far less anomalies than would be expected in this time period because people have been cancelling their appointments for various reasons like self-isolating or nervousness around leaving their home.

‘Understandably, many have missed appointments due to the pandemic, however so many potentially dangerous potential illnesses are highlighted during eye tests. And when you consider the number who have missed a test in the last year, there are potentially a high number of people going about their lives with no idea about potentially catastrophic illness that could be avoided by having a simple test.’

The Specsavers Hindsight report also looked at frequently searched eye health concerns in the last 12 months.

Eye twitching reached nearly 50,000 monthly searches – and pink eye, now linked to being a symptom of coronavirus was also searched regularly.

When it comes to hearing, ear infections, labyrinthitis and earache were the most frequently searched health issues.

It also revealed the top 10 eye health online searches in the last 12 months:

Eye twitching
Pink eye
Swollen Eyelid
Bloodshot eyes

One in five (20%) adults in London have felt eye fatigue in the last year, while 22% have experienced dry eyes or headaches (20%).

Yet 55% haven’t sought medical advice believing them not to be a major problem – or not wanting to waste NHS time and resource.

The research shows that many were aware a standard eye test can detect cataracts, glaucoma or retinal detachments, however 13% were unaware they can identify signs of a potential stroke.

Over half of people (64%) admitted they don’t always know what they’re looking for when it comes to health-related warning signs, while 51% admit to avoiding thinking about any health conditions they may have.

Of the 35% who tend to put off things like an eyesight check, 45% do so because they think the changes are so small, they’re almost unnoticeable.

Of those who have felt their sight and hearing have deteriorated, worrying about being up close to others outside of their household (37%), feeling it was too early to be into contact with others (32%) and simply not getting round to it yet (33%) were the main reasons for not booking a test.

But while people have been avoiding appointments at all costs, the Hindsight report indicates a surge in adults researching health concerns online – Specsavers has also seen an increase in online enquires to its website and Ask The Expert Facebook Group too.

Giles adds: ‘While our store has been open throughout the pandemic, with the rest of the high street opening up people may start to feel more comfortable making their appointments once again. In fact, we have already seen an increase in calls asking if we’re open.

‘As our research shows people have understandably been apprehensive about coming into contact with others, but we want to ensure customers that we have stringent safety measures in place and enhanced cleaning routines to make visits as safe as possible.

‘Luckily, we can catch people through our website and direct them to the right place for correct advice. But we are concerned that there are many people out there using search engines for self-diagnosis and potentially coming across DIY tips that are not medically robust or safe to do.

‘It is so important that anyone with any concerns seeks advice from a professional. An eye test doesn’t just pick up changes in vision but can also detect wider health concerns too.’