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New Campaign for African Caribbean Community

New campaign urges regular eye checks for UK’s African Caribbean community 

September 2013

Campaign launched as research by the College of Optometrists shows lack of awareness of the increased risk of developing glaucoma – a potentially blinding disease.

A new glaucoma-awareness campaign, aimed at those of African Caribbean descent living in the UK, has been launched by the College of Optometrists after research revealed a worrying lack of awareness of the eye condition which may cause complete sight loss if undetected.

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases where the optic nerve, which connects your eye to your brain, is damaged by the pressure of the fluid inside your eye. While glaucoma can develop in people of any ethnic origin, people of African Caribbean origin are up to six times more likely to develop the condition and it can develop approximately ten years earlier than in other ethnic groups.

According to research by the College of Optometrists*, over a third (36%) of people of   African Caribbean descent living in the UK are unaware that they are at a higher risk of developing glaucoma. This has prompted the College of Optometrists to launch the ‘Eye Matter’ campaign to raise awareness of the condition and its prevalence among this high risk community.

As part of the campaign, College members are visiting community groups in Croydon, Birmingham and Manchester to talk to local members of the African Caribbean community about the condition and the importance of regular check-ups in catching it earlier to reduce the risk of avoidable sight loss. A Q&A session will also be held to answer any questions from people concerned that they or a family member may be developing the condition. Simulator spectacles will also be available to give people an idea of what living with the disease in the advanced stages is like.

Dr Susan Blakeney, the College of Optometrists’ Clinical Adviser, said: “Glaucoma is often without symptoms until significant vision has been lost. However, early detection increases the chances of effective treatment, which is why it is so important to go for regular checkups. It’s such a simple message and one we want more people in at-risk groups to hear, which is why we have launched the campaign and are meeting with people from the African Caribbean community.”

The campaign has been welcomed by African Caribbean community organisations. Janet Corlis, CEO of the Afro-Caribbean Millennium Centre commented: “We’re really pleased that the College of Optometrists is launching a campaign to raise awareness of glaucoma. At the moment too many members of our community know little about the condition and as a result often don’t seek treatment early enough. We look forward to working with the College over the next few weeks to make sure as many members of our community as possible know all the facts about the condition and the importance of looking after their eye health.”

 
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