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Survey suggests that people living with glaucoma are potentially at increased risk of sight loss and blindness due to COVID-19 pandemic

Mon 8 March 2021

Results reinforce the importance of continuing eye care routines to maintain good eye health

  • Nearly 1 in 10 (8%) people with glaucoma surveyed in the UK say COVID-19 has prevented them from managing their condition as normal during the pandemic1 
  • Almost a third (29%) people with glaucoma surveyed in the UK who use prescription eye drops to manage their condition, report not using them as frequently as prescribed1 
  • Inadequate glaucoma treatment can lead to irreversible sight loss and blindness2

People with glaucoma have struggled to access their healthcare treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic, putting them at risk of vision loss and blindness, according to results of a new European survey of 2,010 adults with glaucoma, including 250 UK respondents.* Glaucoma is an eye condition that affects about two per cent of the population over 40 in the UK3  - and is one of the most common causes of blindness globally.4   The survey is part of a multi-channel European awareness campaign to encourage people not to lose sight of their glaucoma and prioritise their eye health during the pandemic.  

Over the past 12 months, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted many areas of the healthcare system in the UK, causing delays in diagnosis, an increase in anxiety for patients requiring medical care, and a reduction in medical appointment attendance. Nearly 1 in 10 (8%) surveyed people living with glaucoma in the UK have not been able to manage their condition as normal during the pandemic, with over 1 in 3 (37%) saying that their appointments with medical professionals were cancelled and that no alternatives had been offered to them, likely due to pressures within the NHS due to COVID-19. The pandemic has also shifted people in the UK’s priorities away from picking up their prescriptions, with 27% refraining due to worries about catching COVID-19 and 36% stating that they were too busy. Alarmingly, almost a third (29%) of UK respondents who use prescription eye drops to manage their condition reported not using their medication as frequently as prescribed, putting them at increased risk of sight loss and blindness. The survey also shows that 28% of people with glaucoma surveyed in the UK have been worried or anxious about not being able to manage their condition effectively. 

Karen Osborn, Chief Executive Officer of Glaucoma UK, a leading charity helping people living with glaucoma, said: “We know that many people will be doing their very best to maintain their eye health during the COVID-19 pandemic, however the results of this survey highlight that more can be done to support people at this challenging time. Now more than ever, it is important that people with glaucoma keep their medical appointments, collect their prescriptions and use their eye drops as prescribed. Any disruption to care can lead to vision loss and permanent, irreversible blindness. At Glaucoma UK, we are here to support you. We can provide you with advice and guidance, so please visit our website www.glaucoma.uk for more information.”

The survey also shows that patients remain unclear or unaware of the consequences of not effectively managing their condition.  Only a third (37%) of UK respondents were aware they are risking blindness if they do not use their medication as prescribed. When asked which factors, if any, could prevent vision loss related to glaucoma, a concerning 43% of respondents did not think that using prescribed medication as directed by their doctor could and more than half (56%) did not think having regular check-ups with their doctor prevent vision loss related to glaucoma, highlighting a potential gap in awareness and understanding amongst people with the condition in the UK. 

Professor Philip Bloom Consultant Ophthalmologist and Glaucoma UK Chair of Trustees said, “Glaucoma is a condition that if untreated may damage the optic nerve, the health of which is vital for good vision. This damage is often caused by abnormally high pressure in the eye.  It is a slow progressing disease, but it is imperative for people living with glaucoma to take necessary action now to mitigate issues in the future.”

Those living with glaucoma who wish to find out more about their condition or find out how they can access the resources they need can visit https://glaucoma.uk/

*The survey was conducted in the UK, Spain, Italy, Germany, France, Finland, Norway, and Russia

 

References
The research was conducted by Opinion Matters, with a sample of 2,010 Europeans with glaucoma (Aged 18+), between 19.01.2021 - 05.02.2021 including 250 respondents with glaucoma in the UK. 

  1. Santen data on file
  2. Glaucoma UK. About Glaucoma. 2021. Link: https://glaucoma.uk/about-glaucoma/. Last accessed Feb 2021.
  3. Glaucoma UK. Glaucoma Guide. 2021. Link: https://glaucoma.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/3000_GlaucomaUK_PatientLeaflet_A5_GlaucomaAGuide_Web.pdf. Last accessed Feb 2021.
  4. NHS. Moorfield Eye Hospital. Glaucoma. 2021. Link: https://www.moorfields.nhs.uk/condition/glaucoma Last accessed Feb 2021.

 

Job Code NP-SANTEN-UKIE-0144       Date of Preparation March 2021