Research shows two thirds of Australians may not see as clearly as they should

Monday, 20 August, 2007


A new study released on the eve of National Eye Health Week (12-19 August) shows that two thirds of people over 40 who wear glasses are experiencing problems with their eyesight yet many are not doing anything about it.

The research, conducted online by lens brand Varilux Physio among 1009 respondents aged 40 years and older who wore glasses in July 2007, found that 66% of over 40s who wear glasses experience burning, itching, grittiness, blurring or headaches but a third have not consulted an optometrist to relieve the symptoms. And it appears these visual difficulties are impacting daily life. One in five of those surveyed reported that these eyesight problems regularly have an impact on their work.

Clouding their vision even further, 61% of respondents admit to looking through lenses that have scratches on them and 45% admit to looking through dirty or smudged lenses daily, while 67% say they spend between six and nine hours a day in front of computer screens or working at close range — equivalent to an average night's sleep.

Leading research optometrist Dr Carol Lakkis, from Clinical Vision Research Australia, explains that if you spend extended periods of time working at close range, regular breaks are important: "To look after your eyes, take a 20 second break every 20 minutes and focus on something in the distance."

Lakkis believes the number of Australians not optimising their vision is a concern: "As we age, our eyes naturally become less effective at focusing at near and this is a gradual process. Rather than put up with it, it's important that people who are experiencing difficulties with their vision or eyestrain consult their optometrist to help relieve their symptoms."

Not helping matters, 28% of respondents admit to buying 'ready-made' glasses at newsagents or pharmacies and 67% don't always wear sunglasses when outdoors.

"It's important to have regular eye examinations to ensure that the health of the eye is not deteriorating, in addition to obtaining the best prescription to correct your vision. People should also always be wearing sunglasses and a hat whenever they are outdoors to protect their eyes from ultraviolet radiation," explained Lakkis.

According to the Varilux Physio research, many Australians are also not having their eyesight professionally tested with the biggest reason being cost, followed by not knowing the benefits and not liking the idea.

Some 38% of spectacle wearers over 40 falsely believe that wearing their glasses all the time will weaken their sight, exposing the confusion that exists around what is good for your eyes.

"This is a worrying figure as it illustrates that people may not be using their glasses correctly. There really is a significant difference between the various types of lenses on offer, but if prescribed correctly, none of them weaken your vision," said Lakkis.

While 81% of those surveyed follow the recommendation of their optometrist when it comes to lenses, many become focused on the fashion aspect of choosing glasses as opposed to the visual function, with 81% of respondents spending more time choosing their frames than their lenses, which actually help them to see.

Lakkis commented: "I strongly encourage people to consider the types of lenses available to them, primarily by talking to their optometrist about which lens design is going to be the best option for their visual needs."

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