Thousands of people across Yorkshire 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 during the pandemic.

Survey findings released by Specsavers indicate more than a third of those in Yorkshire missed an eye test between March and September 2020, meaning many may have an underlying eye or health condition that they are unaware of (37%).

The research by Specsavers has revealed at least 10% across the region fear they might have a serious underlying sight condition, while 5% worry that they have a potentially significant issue with their hearing.

Further data from Specsavers shows there were 227,717 missed appointments across the region from March – September last year. The figures are significant when compared with the total 725,861 tests taken across the region in 2019.

Although nearly half of respondents in the region have said their sight, hearing or both have deteriorated since the pandemic began (46%), the majority of those have not yet booked a test (51%).

According to the research, as part of Specsavers Hindsight Report, 10% of people in Yorkshire 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.’

Nearly a fifth of adults in Yorkshire have felt eye fatigue in the last year (18%), while (14%) have experienced dry eyes or headaches (16%).

Yet 65% haven’t sought medical advice, believing the issues 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 86% were unaware they can identify signs of a potential stroke.

Two-thirds admitted they don’t always know what they’re looking for when it comes to health-related warning signs (67%), while half admit to avoiding thinking about any health conditions they may have.

Of the 47% who tend to put off things like an eyesight check, 77% do so because they think the changes are so small, they’re almost unnoticeable.

And of those who have felt their sight and hearing have deteriorated, worrying about being up close to others outside of their household (46%), feeling it was too early to be into contact with others (42%) and simply not getting round to it yet (24%) 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.’