Thousands of people across Ireland have missed out on vital eye tests during lockdown, potentially putting their eyesight and wider health at risk, warn high street opticians Specsavers this World Sight Day.
Importance of Early Detection
Specsavers Ireland optician and store director Kerril Hickey says: ‘Fifty percent of sight loss is avoidable with early detection, however, during the pandemic many people may not have had access to these diagnostic tests. Not only does this mean their eyesight is at risk but potentially other aspects of their health too.
‘That’s because while there are several changes we may notice in our vision which could be a sign of a wider health condition, there are also some things that can only be detected during an eye test.
‘It is important to make an appointment with your optometrist if you are seeing certain things, such as persistent floaters, or notice changes with your eyes such as blurred vision or yellowing of the eyes. However, it is also important to keep up your regular eye checks – even if you don’t think there is anything wrong with your vision – because something could be happening which you are completely unaware of.’
The Hope Foundation
In Ireland, with eyecare so accessible, many people to take their eyesight for granted. However, in many countries eye care is not widely available, so Specsavers Ireland, together with The Hope Foundation, fund the running of an eye clinic in Kolkata, India.
As part of The Hope Foundation partnership a team of Specsavers optometrists and dispensing opticians visit Kolkata to run an intense week-long mobile eye clinic each November. Visiting the street and slum communities, Specsavers tend to thousands of patients who never have even had an eye test. The pandemic means the team will not be able to visit this year but they are still committed to fundraising for the charity.
This October, Butlers chocolate bars will be available for sale in all Specsavers stores across Ireland. The money raised from the sales of each €2 chocolate bar will go towards supporting the eye clinics in Kolkata.
Lisa Walsh, Store Partner
Lisa Walsh, Specsavers Liffey Valley store partner and Specsavers team lead for The Hope Foundation, says: ‘We are delighted to be into our fourth year of our partnership with The Hope Foundation and this World Sight Day we want to start a conversation around eye health and encourage people to not take their eyes for granted. While we can’t get over to Kolkata, we are still committed to bringing eye care to those who need it and will continue to fund the eye clinic for those less fortunate, with no access to healthcare.’
Symptoms to Look out for
Specsavers is urging anyone who is experiencing issues with their eye health such as
persistent floaters, blurred vision or yellowing of the eyes to make an appointment with their local Specsavers store.
Specsavers has shared five changes you may notice in your eyes and what they mean, as well as conditions that can be detected during an eye test:
Five eye health signs to look out for:
Red spots/blood vessels
‘While in most cases red spots are nothing to worry about, if your eyes remain red for some time it is important to get them looked at as it could be an indication of high blood pressure.
‘High blood pressure can mean you have a higher risk of a heart attack or stroke and it can also lead to complications with your vision.’
‘Floaters are spots in your vision and usually look like black or grey specs or cobwebs that drift about when you move your eyes. Most people will experience floaters in their vision at some point in their life, however, if you notice more eye floaters than usual, a sudden onset of new ones, flashes of light in the eye or darkness on any side of your vision, you must get it looked at immediately as it could signify a tear in your retina or injury in the back of your eye. In some cases, it can also be a symptom of diabetic retinopathy or high cholesterol.’
‘Some people may notice a blue-tinted ring appear around their iris, particularly as they age,’ says Ms Walsh. ‘This is caused by cholesterol deposits in the eye. They are more common in those aged 60 and above and aren’t usually something to worry about. However, if these develop in the under 40s, there may be a greater risk of developing heart disease.’
‘Typically, yellowing of the eyes is caused by jaundice,’ says Ms Walsh. ‘The condition occurs when haemoglobin (part of the blood which carries oxygen) breaks down into bilirubin, which isn’t then cleared from the body. It is meant to move from the liver to the bile ducts, but if this doesn’t happen yellowing of the skin – and the eyes – can occur and could signify there is a problem with the liver, gallbladder or pancreas.’
‘Blurred vision can be caused by many things and it is vital you get it checked out. Diabetes raises the risk of experiencing diabetic retinopathy where high blood sugar levels damage tiny blood vessels in the eye that sense light which can result in blurry vision.
‘The sudden onset of blurry vision could also be a sign of stroke, particularly if combined with some of the other key signs such as slurred speech and dropping of the face. Blurry vision could also indicate other eye conditions such as cataract or age-related macular degeneration too.’
Five concerns your optometrist can spot:
‘Glaucoma is often symptomless as it develops so gradually. That’s why it is often referred to as the silent thief of sight,’ says Mr Edmonds. ‘It is one of the leading causes of blindness, however, if it is identified in its early stages it can be successfully managed. Regular eye examinations are key to detecting it – and are so important to those at greater risk of the condition due to their older age or family history.
‘At Specsavers we use advanced diagnostic equipment called OCT (Optical Coherence Tomography) to examine the eye in more detail and are able to pick up any damage to the optic nerve which is typical of glaucoma.’
‘In its early stages diabetic retinopathy usually doesn’t pose any noticeable symptoms, so an eye test can pick it up before you do,’ Mr Edmonds says. ‘As the condition affects small blood vessels in the eye, damaging the retina, your optometrist can look for early characteristic changes, such as tiny leaks from these damaged vessels.’
High blood pressure
‘During an eye test, your optometrist might spot signs of high blood pressure, through observing the eye’s blood vessels to see if they have narrowed or started leaking. Patients with high blood pressure can develop a condition called hypertensive retinopathy which sees the walls of blood vessels thicken, narrow and restrict blood flow. In some cases the retina also becomes swollen and the blood vessels can leak.’
‘As well as causing inflammation of the joints, some autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, can also cause inflammation in the eyes,’ Mr Edmonds says. ‘This inflammation usually leads to dry eye but occasionally it can cause more serious conditions like inflammation of the iris.’
‘While an eye test can look for any cancers of the eye such as melanomas, it will sometimes reveal signs of possible brain tumours,’ Mr Edmonds says. ‘Swelling in the optic nerves can be visible during an eye test and can sometimes indicate that a brain tumour is present.’