(TeleManagement) Researchers at University College, London, have long been involved in looking at the effects of socio-economic class on health. For instance, they have learned how poverty is one of the most potent risk factors in heart disease. Now they’ve turned their attention to a different area – that of eye disease.
In glaucoma, pressure inside the eyeball builds up over a period of time, damaging the blood vessels that feed the retina. If it’s left untreated, glaucoma will cause blindness. But an optician will always carry out a glaucoma check during a regular eye exam, so it should be possible to pick up the condition early enough so it can be treated.
The researchers checked the socioeconomic status of 220 patients newly diagnosed with glaucoma at three English hospitals. Those with late glaucoma were of lower occupational status, lower educational level, and were less likely to own a car or their own home. Since the later you present with glaucoma, the more likely it is you will become blind, the researchers conclude that lower socioeconomic status is a risk factor for loss of vision.
It’s not clear why poorer people should be disadvantaged in this way. Eye checks are not free in the UK, but there are many exemptions for those in need. It may be that people in lower socioeconomic classes are less aware of the importance of seeing their optician every year. Evidently, the health authorities should also consider glaucoma when they are looking at how to address social inequalities in health.
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