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City taking pop-up glaucoma test on tour of the healthiest and unhealthiest high streets in the UK

Study also aims to show people the importance of a regular eye examinations while educating people about the condition

by George Wigmore (Senior Communications Officer)

Optometrists from City University London are taking a Pop-Up on a tour of eight of the most healthy and unhealthy high streets in the UK to detect glaucoma and raise awareness of this often invisible eye disease.

By comparing some of the unhealthiest high streets in places such as Preston and Middlesbrough with the healthiest places such as Carlisle and Shrewsbury, the City team hope that by seeing how the rates vary at each location will enable them to see if the public engagement or detection rate of glaucoma suspects depends on the healthiness of the high street.

In England and Wales, it's estimated more than 500,000 people have glaucoma but many more people may not know they have the condition. As a result, the study also aims to address this pressing public health challenge by showing the effectiveness of a targeted screening approach to detect glaucoma and will see if uptake is related to the amount of deprivation in each city by using postcode information.

Risk of visual impairment from the eye disease glaucoma is greatest in those patients detected at a late stage of the disease. Patients living in the most deprived areas of the UK are also predicted to be diagnosed with twice as much vision loss compared to those from the least deprived regions. By offering eye and blood pressure tests, the City team hope to show that by offering the services alongside each other will not only show a link but also improve detection of glaucoma.

Currently glaucoma is mainly detected by opticians following a routine sight test, yet visits to the optometrist are often symptom driven and unfortunately glaucoma often has no symptoms. There are also other barriers to detection of the disease, with the perceived cost and ‘pressure to buy glasses’ often cited as reasons not to go for an eye test. On the other hand the idea of screening the entire elderly population for glaucoma has been shown to be too expensive and not practical.

Laura Edwards, an optometrist and one of the researchers of the study, said:

“People with glaucoma may experience no symptoms and have 20/20 vision, which is why this eye disease is often called the ‘invisible thief of sight.’ As a result, we will take the pop-up into the unhealthy high streets to see if public engagement or detection rate of suspect glaucoma is greater than when we take the pop-up into a healthy high street.

“We also hope that by providing glaucoma test combined with a blood pressure measurement that eye tests are more likely to be taken up as part of a wider health check. Our study also aims to show people the importance of a regular eye examinations while educating people about the condition  and raising awareness of a condition which affects over half a million people in England and Wales, with many more people not even aware that they might have the condition.”

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City, University of London is an independent member institution of the University of London. Established by Royal Charter in 1836, the University of London consists of 18 independent member institutions with outstanding global reputations and several prestigious central academic bodies and activities.