Knowledge and beliefs about common eye diseases

Aust N Z J Ophthalmol. 1997 Nov;25(4):283-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1442-9071.1997.tb01516.x.


Purpose: To ascertain the level of knowledge of common causes of blindness in an adult Australian population and to relate this to use of eye care services.

Methods: A population-based study of common eye diseases in an urban population aged 49 years or older was conducted. The questions were concerned with the awareness and knowledge of and the ability to describe three common eye diseases, namely cataract, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Results: Awareness of cataract (98%) and glaucoma (93%) were high in this population, but awareness of AMD was low (20%). Among people who were aware of the target eye disease, only 29% showed some knowledge of glaucoma, 26% showed some knowledge of AMD and 20% showed some knowledge of cataract; this was also low in people who had previous eye treatment, such as cataract surgery. Knowledge was related to education level, occupational prestige and knowledge of other eye diseases. After excluding people with a previous eye disease diagnosis, those people who were aware and had some knowledge of eye disease accessed eyecare services more frequently.

Conclusions: Knowledge of common eye diseases is generally lacking. Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in Australia, yet only 20% of the present study population had heard of it. As there are often no early symptoms for glaucoma, community awareness of this disease and the need for screening of people at risk may allow timely diagnosis and more effective therapy before advanced visual field loss has occurred. An informed public is more likely to present earlier with visual symptoms before irreversible visual loss has occurred and is more likely to comply better with recommended therapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Blindness / diagnosis
  • Blindness / epidemiology
  • Blindness / etiology
  • Cataract / complications
  • Cataract / diagnosis
  • Cataract / epidemiology
  • Eye Diseases* / diagnosis
  • Eye Diseases* / epidemiology
  • Eye Diseases* / etiology
  • Female
  • Glaucoma / complications
  • Glaucoma / diagnosis
  • Glaucoma / epidemiology
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Macular Degeneration / complications
  • Macular Degeneration / diagnosis
  • Macular Degeneration / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Prevalence
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Urban Population
  • Visual Acuity