National Eye Health Week 2022

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Sight is the sense that people fear losing the most, yet two million people in the UK are living with sight loss that is severe enough to have a significant impact on their daily lives. Half of this sight loss is avoidable.

This year’s National Eye Health Week (NEHW) will take place from 20 to 25 September 2022 which aims to promote the importance of good eye health. Vision Matters are encouraging the public to be ‘eye-aware’ to encourage uptake of routine sight tests and highlighting the role of healthy lifestyles in preventing avoidable sight loss.

Each day of the Week is themed to extend the reach of the campaign to the widest possible audience. This year’s themes include: children’s eye health; good vision for driving; live well to see well; minor eye conditions; eye technology and eye health during the menopause.

Serious eye complaints

To demonstrate how important regular eye tests are, we have provided some information below regarding the common severe eye problems which can be detected:

  1. Cataracts

A cataract occurs when cloudy patches develop in the lens of the eye, preventing light reaching the back of the eye. This causes blurred, double or faded/unclear vision, or cause you to see circle of light around bright lights and make them uncomfortable to look at. Cataracts can affect one or both of the eyes and usually develop slowly, meaning they often go noticed. They can develop due to age, however there are other factors, including poor lifestyle which can increase the risk.

  1. Glaucoma

Glaucoma is where the head of the optic nerve, which carries visual signals from the eye to the brain, deteriorates due to increase pressure inside the eye. It is usually caused by fluid build-up in the front of the eye due to drainage channels.

Glaucoma is a progressive condition, therefore it is very important to diagnose and treat the condition early. This is because it is not possible to reverse any loss of vision which has occurred before diagnosis, however treatment can prevent it progressing further. If left untreated it can lead to total and permanent blindness.

There are no symptoms initially and they can develop over many years, and usually affects the peripheral vision first, meaning many people do not realise they have glaucoma until a routine eye test is conducted. There is no loss of vision until approximately half of the 1.2 million nerve fibres have been lost.

However, if symptoms do present, they can include blurred vision or rainbow-coloured circles around bright lights. Both eyes are usually affected although may be worse in one eye. In some cases, glaucoma can develop suddenly, causing intense eye pain, nausea and vomiting, redness, headache, tenderness around the eye and visual disturbances (seeing rings around lights and blurred vision).

  1. Macular degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration is one of the leading causes of sight loss for over-50s. It affects the middle part of vision and does not result in total blindness, but can make everyday tasks difficult such as reading and facial recognition. The first symptoms are blurred or distorted vision which may worsen to no sight in the middle vision.

Without treatment, vision may get worse, the timescale of which depends on whether the AMD is ‘dry’ (several years) or ‘wet’ (weeks or months). Wet AMD can be treated, however in cases of dry AMD, no treatment can be provided but visual aids can be provided which may help reduce the impact of the issue on daily life.

  1. Tumours and aneurysms

It is possible for a routine eye test to detect something more serious, such as eye, brain or neck cancer, meaning what is considered a simple routine eye exam could be potentially life-saving. Swelling of the optic nerve could indicate that a brain tumour is present and droopy eyelids or irregularly shaped pupils could suggest a neck tumour or an aneurysm. Indicators such as these usually appear in the early stages before other symptoms begin to show, making regular eye check-ups even more important.

What you can do to promote your eye health

As some eye conditions can be linked to aging or family history, going for a sight test every 2 years is the most effective means of promoting your eye health to ensure any and all issues can be identified. A sight test can also detect common health conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol or high blood pressure. For example, retinopathy in diabetic patients often is the first indication a person has the condition, meaning these conditions may otherwise go unnoticed until other more serious health complications arise. It is equally important that high cholesterol and high blood pressure are identified, as suffering from these can also increase your likelihood of developing the above eye conditions.

Diet: studies have indicated that what we eat can affect our vision. Eating a diet rich in antioxidants can prevent retinal damage, particularly lutein. It is also important to avoid excessive alcohol consumption as this can lead to serious health conditions which can impact eye health.

Exercise: exercise can reduce the risk of sight loss from narrowing or hardening of the arteries, high blood pressure and diabetes. This is particularly important for people aged 60 and over.

Smoking: smoking is the biggest risk factor after aging for developing macular degeneration and increases the risk of developing cataracts.

Sunlight: you should not look at the sun directly and wear CE approved sunglasses to protect your eyes from UV light rays.

We can all play our part in raising awareness of the importance of taking good care of our eyes by getting involved with National Eye Health Week. The focus will be FrEYEday, on which day Vision Matters will launch their Eye Q Report, which looks at “how smart we are when it comes to looking after our vision and eye health,” the organisers said. “On this day we will be encouraging people to get their eyes tested and to make small lifestyle changes to benefit their eye health to prevent future avoidable sight loss,” they added.

With acknowledgements to Vision Matters

For more information about the importance of eye health and National Eye Health Week 2022, check out the Vision Matters website:  Vision Matters – National Eye Health Week


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