Kiwi 'she'll be right' attitude putting sight at risk - expert

A blasé attitude towards eye health means one in five Kiwis are putting their vision at risk, according to new research. 

A recent Specsavers study of over 500 New Zealanders found that while 89 percent of New Zealand adults have experienced problems with their eyes, one in five of them haven't sought any medical assistance. 

When questioned, almost half of respondents said it was either because they didn't think there was anything wrong with their eye health, or that they would rather wait for the problem to fix itself. 

Specsavers optometrist Ian Russell says the research highlights a problematic 'she'll be right' culture in New Zealand, which can lead to serious eye problems not being detected until they are irreparable. 

"Most people are going to experience an eye problem like red eyes, itchy eyes, floaters or changes to vision in their lifetime and often there may be no larger problem associated with it," he says. 

"However, many common eye problems could also be early signs of more serious eye issues, which could eventually lead to vision loss or blindness."

Russell says early detection of most eye conditions can prevent vision loss and blindness. 

"For example, changes in vision may be the early signs of a sight-threatening condition such as macular degeneration; floaters or flashes of light could be symptoms of a retinal detachment; cloudy vision could be the early signs of a cataract and red eye may be caused by a serious corneal ulcer." 

Things to watch out for:

  • Dry eyes 
  • Teary or watery eyes 
  • Itchy eyes 
  • Red eyes 
  • Problems seeing things in the distance or up close 
  • Uncomfortable eyes 
  • Gritty eyes 
  • Cloudy vision 

The data also revealed that New Zealanders are much more likely to treat eye infections or irritations with urgency than vision issues. More than two thirds (69 percent) of Kiwis said they would seek help for irritations or infections within a week, compared to just 44 percent for vision issues. 

Russell says if you're experiencing any problems with your eyes, the best thing to do is book an eye health check to see if your problem isn't a sign of a more serious issue. 

"Most Kiwis don't realise that eye problems like conjunctivitis, inflamed eyes and gritty eyes can be treated by optometrists who are therapeutically qualified. 

"These optometrists can prescribe antibiotics, antihistamines, anti-inflammatories and antiviral eye drops to assist with eye problems. By booking an eye health check, it means you can not only fix the problem, but also check the overall health of your eyes."