Concern over sight threatening conditions as waiting lists for appointments grow

Delays in eye disease treatment and missed appointments due to the Covid-19 pandemic could have serious repercussions for people with vision-threatening diseases.

A new report paints a grim picture of the impact of the coronavirus on Ireland’s eye health due to reduced testing and delays in identifying and treating eye disease.

There was a 19% drop in eye tests last year, while waiting lists for screenings and appointments have increased.

The State of Ireland’s Eye Health 2021 report, commissioned by Specsavers Ireland in collaboration with charity partner Fighting Blindness, expects delays in eye disease treatment and missed appointments to have a significant financial impact on the economy but, more worryingly, the real cost in plain sight.

Before the pandemic, the annual economic cost of sight loss and blindness in Ireland by 2020 was estimated at € 2.67 billion. The additional backlog of eye care services caused by the pandemic is likely to impose significant additional costs on people with vision-threatening conditions as they live with an increased risk of falls, fear of a (new) ) vision loss, productivity losses and reduced quality of life while expecting.

With more than 123,700 fewer eye exams (a 19% drop) and more than 49,000 people on a waiting list for a hospital appointment or eye procedure, eye health experts predict an increase in referrals to ophthalmology services.

The report also points out that in May 2021, 8,735 children were on waiting lists for ophthalmology.

Children with poor eye health may have difficulty in class, which can impact their learning and development. Early intervention is essential to dramatically reduce the negative impact of certain conditions on children’s eye health and vision.

To support the commissioned eye health report, Specsavers Ireland also conducted a consumer study with Empathy Research.

The report and the consumer study reveal:

A 19% drop in eye tests administered, resulting in 123,741 fewer eye tests across Ireland from March to December 2020

47,000 people missed screening for diabetic retinopathy in 2020, compared to 2019

49,000 people currently on the waiting list for outpatient and hospital ophthalmology appointments in August 2021

There are 8,735 children on waiting lists for ophthalmology in May 2021

36% of adults who have ever had an eye test say they delayed an eye test during the pandemic knowing they had to have one or thought they should have one

24% of adults delayed their eye exams because the pandemic made them reluctant to be in busy social situations after lockdown

Just over 6 in 10 adults (62%) had red, itchy, painful or uncomfortable eyes and say these symptoms had an impact on their vision in the past 18 months

Almost half (45%) of people with eye strain say they started to suffer from it during the pandemic.

Almost one in 10 adults (9%) thinks they might have a serious underlying eye problem that they haven’t looked at because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This incidence is highest among 18-34 year olds.

Kerril Hickey, President of Specsavers Ireland, said: “As comprehensive as this report is, we, as well as our colleagues and partners in the eye health industry, suspect that these early findings are just the tip of the iceberg.

“The pandemic has meant eye care services in Ireland have been withdrawn, reduced or restricted, and although Specsavers is open for care throughout the pandemic, our stores, alongside other community optometrists, have recorded a significant drop of almost 19% in eye tests across the industry.

“This has led to reduced referrals and treatment of serious, and sometimes asymptomatic, eye conditions which can lead to irreversible and permanent vision loss if not detected and managed in time,” he said.

During the pandemic, 47,000 people missed screening for diabetic retinopathy in 2020, compared to 2019. A vital program that identifies people with diabetes who are at risk of losing their sight due to diabetic retinopathy. The RetinaScreen team has since worked incredibly hard to clear the backlog by September 2021.

As ophthalmologists face the COVID-19 backlog, with reduced clinical capacity, they are particularly concerned about injections for patients with wet AMD, diagnosis and treatment of glaucoma, treatment of diabetic retinopathy, and pediatric ophthalmology.

Kevin Whelan, CEO of Fighting Blindness, said: “Throughout the pandemic, many of us concerned with eye health have worked hard to provide emergency care and support to those in need. However, due to limited services, there is now a large backlog of people who did not attend eye appointments and although many were not disadvantaged by this delay, some may now need an appointment. urgent treatment to save eyesight and, unfortunately, some will have suffered permanent vision loss.

“This report highlights the scale of the challenge we now face as restrictions are relaxed. Everyone at Fighting Blindness is ready to play their part in preventing preventable sight loss,” he said. he declares.

Kerril Hickey seeks to promote a more concerted approach across the eye health industry to help address the problem of eliminating the backlog of patients and reducing the burden of HSE.

“Now is the time to implement changes, such as accelerated technology, that will help ensure the long-term sustainability of patient-centered care,” Hickey said.

For more information on the State of the ROI Eye Health Report, visit www.specsavers.ie/eye-health/state-of-irelands-eye-health-2021 or to schedule an appointment visit www.specsavers .ie.


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