New statistics around Brits putting off vital health appointments due to the coronavirus pandemic are eye watering:
- The Royal College of Ophthalmologists are estimating that at least 10,000 people in England, Wales and Scotland have already missed out on essential care for their vision during the pandemic lockdown and ongoing restrictions.
- In some areas, up to 50 per cent of patients have not been attending the most urgent eye appointments.
- A University College London study also found eye clinics reported a 70 per cent reduction in new referrals during the first few months of lockdown.
Dr Andy Hepworth from Bristol-based Essilor.co.uk, the UK’s leading corrective lens manufacturer for opticians nationwide, is urging people to keep up to date with regular eye health checks to avoid vision impairment.
He provides five tops tips for how to spot signs that you should get your eyes checked and explains why it’s essential to keep up to date with regular eye health examinations to avoid vision impairment.
“Most people think of an eye test as something that is for checking whether you need corrective lenses or to update a prescription, but eye checks are vital for spotting any early signs of common health problems.
While an eye examination can indeed identify any need for corrective lenses, regular eye exams are, in fact, like a window into your body for a registered optician who may pick up other more general health areas as well as early signs of eye conditions.
Your eyes don’t often hurt when something is wrong, which is why regular eye examinations are essential. Many eye conditions don’t present symptoms straight away, and it is not always easy to recognise when or if you need glasses.”
Your optician can detect conditions such as;
- Diabetes – diabetes can affect small blood vessels in the eye, which can damage the retina. Your optician can pick up on early changes such as leaks from damaged blood vessels, before you have noticed any symptoms
- High blood pressure – an optician can notice high blood pressure during a routine eye test, by looking for narrowed or leaking blood vessels or a swollen retina
- High cholesterol – this can cause blockages in the body’s blood vessels, including those in your eyes. Opticians can notice cholesterol running through the blood vessels
- Tumours – in some cases, an eye test may be able to detect signs of brain tumours. Opticians may notice swelling of the optic nerves, which can indicate a brain tumour may be present
Five eye problems you should never ignore
It is always best to get any changes to your eyes or eyesight checked out – no matter how small or insignificant, however things that you should never ignore include:
- blurred vision/ double vision
- eye pain
- droopy eye lids
- floaters with flashing lights
These could all be signs that something isn’t quite right. Your optician has the technology to take an in-depth look at your eye and provide expert advice.
It can be helpful to recognise any change in your vision, as it could be a warning sign for future eye problems.
Other issues ‘to keep an eye on’
Redness and irritation is often an early warning signal that your eyes could do with a bit more looking after. This can be caused by a range of factors including fatigue, allergies, over-wearing contact lenses or an infection such as conjunctivitis. If you experience redness and irritation for more than a couple of days then it is always best to get your eyes checked out by your local optician who will guide you.
Some symptoms can be an early indicator of conditions such as glaucoma, cataracts or age-related macular degeneration. These include
- Tired, itchy eyes
- Frequent or persistent headaches
- Blurry vision
- Excessive eye pain
- Seeing halos around light
- Faded colours
- Double vision
Look after your eyes by eating a healthy balanced diet and avoid smoking and excess alcohol. If you work with a screen every day then give your eyes regular breaks throughout the day. If you need glasses then make sure that you wear them to avoid eye strain and always wear high quality sunglasses if you’re outside even on cloudy days.
Maintaining regular eye examinations with your local optician is the best and most straightforward way to look after your eye health and vision. It is recommended you visit an optician every two years, unless you have a more complicated eye health history (your Optician will recommend how regularly you should be seen).