National Eye Health Week

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1 Q & A ABOUT SIGHT TESTS 1. I can see fine, why do I need a sight test? Many eye conditions do not have symptoms in their early stages. If detected early enough, many can be treated and blindness can be avoided. It is easy to think that your eyesight is fine, because you have nothing to compare it against. A sight test does not just assess how well you can see, it also looks for diseases that can be diagnosed through a sight test. Some eye conditions resulting in sight loss are symptomless. Glaucoma has no symptoms until it is very advanced, so without a sight test you could have lost part of the visual field in one eye but not have noticed. Diabetic retinopathy is also symptomless in the initial stages, but can lead to total vision loss 1. Equally, the first time some people know they have a brain tumour or high blood pressure is through a sight test. Optometrists are health professionals who can improve your quality of life by prescribing spectacles or by detecting the early signs of an eye condition that could lead to sight loss. Through early detection, the condition can be treatable. 2. Which diseases can be detected through a sight test? Regular sight tests can diagnose more serious problems. Glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, cataracts and in some cases brain tumours and high blood pressure can be detected through a sight test. Sometimes, the first time people are aware they have a brain tumour is when it is detected through a sight test. However, if a sight test doesn t pick up a condition, this doesn t mean that you don t have it. 1

2 3. How often should I have a sight test? Regular sight tests are still important even if you don t wear spectacles or lenses. They are a vital health check and should be part of everyone s health routine. Adults should see an optometrist every two years. Some people may need to go more frequently. These include: Those over 70 People with a history of eye conditions in their family People over 40 of Afro-Carribean or Asian origin Those who wear contact lenses should go every six months so the surfaces of the eyes can be checked Your optometrist will give you individual advice on how often to visit. 4. How much does a sight test cost? Many people qualify for a free sight test and help with the cost of spectacles/lenses on the NHS. An average sight test costs in the region of 25 but shop around, as the cost varies greatly. A health cash plan can help you manage the cost of your eye health. An affordable health cash plan (such as those provided by Simplyhealth) will allow you to claim back the cost of sight tests and glasses for you and your family, up to an annual limit. Health cash plans not only help you to budget for optical costs, but also for other regular health appointments, such as trips to the dentist and complimentary therapies. If you regularly use computers or visual display units (VDUs) at work your employer is legally obliged to provide free eye tests, and a basic pair of glasses if they re needed for work. For more information visit:

3 5. Could I (or my children) be exempt from paying for sight tests? In England, Northern Ireland & Wales you qualify for a free NHS sight test if you are: Aged under 16 Aged up to 18 in full-time education Aged over 60 Aged over 40 with a relative with glaucoma A diabetes or glaucoma sufferer Claiming benefit (i.e. Income Support, Income-based Jobseeker s Allowance, Income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Pension Credit Guarantee Credit) Receiving Tax Credits (in some cases) On a low income and named on a valid HC2 (full help) or HC3 (partial help) certificate In Scotland NHS eye examinations are available free to all. If you need new spectacles or contact lenses, you may be entitled to an optical voucher. This can be used as full or part payment for your spectacles/lenses. You can get help with the cost of spectacles or contact lenses if you are: Aged under 16 Aged 16, 17 or 18 in full-time education Prescribed complex lenses (your optician will advise on your entitlement) Claiming Benefit (i.e. Income Support, Income-based Jobseeker s Allowance, Income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Pension Credit Guarantee Credit)

4 Receiving Tax Credits you may also be entitled to help on the NHS On a low income and named on a valid HC2 (full help) or HC3 (partial help) certificate. If you are entitled to an NHS sight test and are unable to get to a high street opticians unaided, you are entitled to a free sight test at home. 6. How long does a standard sight test take and what does it involve? minutes but it can take longer if further tests are needed. A standard sight test would include: Checking if spectacles or contact lenses are needed Checking the health of both the inside and the outside of the eye Measuring the pressure of the fluid in the eye and examining the structures at the back of the eye Plotting the visual field of the eyes (checking if there are any blind areas) Optometrists also have a responsibility to report any non-ocular conditions they might see. 7. What are the differences between the optical health professionals? A dispensing optician fits and dispenses spectacles, contact lenses and lowvision aids. An optometrist examines, diagnoses, treats and manages diseases and disorders of the visual system, the eye and associated structures. Services provided by optometrists include prescribing spectacles and contact lenses, and diagnosing and treating selected ocular diseases. An ophthalmologist is a doctor specialising in the anatomy, function, diseases, and surgical treatment of the eye. An ophthalmologist can perform complex

5 and delicate eye surgery. An orthoptist investigates, diagnoses and treats problems and abnormalities of eye movement and eye position. They work predominantly in hospitals, but may also work in community healthcare and schools. 8. Who should I see first with an eye health issue, an optometrist or a doctor? In most cases it would be appropriate to see an optometrist in the first instance. However, in some areas PEARS (Primary Eye Care Arrangement Scheme) operates, and GPs refer patients to optometrists. GPs are not eye experts though and have very little training on eyes. The optometrist will refer you to the GP or hospital if it is needed. 9. Do I register with at an optician in the same way that I register with a GP or dentist? No, you can see a different optometrist every time, and just walk in for a sight test if an appointment slot is available. 10. How often do I need to get my spectacles / contact lenses prescription checked? Adults should get their spectacles prescription checked by an optometrist every two years. People who wear contact lenses should go to the optometrist every six months so the surface of the eye can be checked. Your optometrist or dispensing optician might give you individual advice on how often to visit. 11. How does a home (domiciliary) sight test differ from a sight test at an optician? A home sight test uses portable versions of the equipment that would be used at the optician s practice. With domiciliary visits, the tests may be more

6 adapted to personal circumstances, for example, the optometrist may take into account how far away your chair is from the television and adjust your prescription accordingly. They may also give advice about lighting. MYTH-BUSTING 12. Does a sight test hurt? Not at all. 13. Isn t sight loss something that only old people have to worry about? It is true that many eye conditions are age related, but equally, onset can happen at any age. 14. Doesn t wearing spectacles make your eyes weaker? No. Spectacles make you used to having clear vision and as a result you are less tolerant of the blur you see when you take your spectacles off. 15. What are the possible side effects of wearing the wrong prescription contact lenses / spectacles? You will not be seeing at the optimum level. You may also get headaches and eye strain. If you adapt to the wrong prescription it may then be hard for an optometrist to get you to adapt to the right prescription for you. For example, this can happen with readymade reading glasses as few people have the same prescription in both eyes. THE WORKPLACE 16. Do computer screens affect eye sight? They might make any latent problem that you have more obvious. Also, you may find that you do not blink as often as you should making the eyes feel

7 dry and irritated. It is advisable to look away from the screen regularly to rest your eyes for a moment. 17. Am I entitled to a sight test if I work with computers / screens? The advice from the Health and Safety Executive is that if you are an employee who uses a visual display unit (VDU) as a significant part of your normal work, your employer has to provide a sight test if you request one Employers are only required to pay for spectacles if the test shows that special ones are needed for your VDU work and normal ones cannot be used Does my workplace have a policy on sight tests? If you think that you are entitled to a sight test due to your work with VDUs, it is your responsibility to request your employer to pay for your eye test they do not have a responsibility to offer it to you 3. SIGHT LOSS: STATS AND FACTS 19. How many people suffer from sight loss in the UK? Research carried out by the RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People) found that in August 2010 there were almost 2 million people living with sight loss in the UK. With our ageing population, by 2050, this number is predicted to rise to almost four million How many people in Britain experience avoidable sight loss?

8 The RNIB estimates that of the 1.8 million people in the UK experiencing sight loss, 53% of these cases are avoidable with regular sight tests and the dispensing of spectacles How many children have undiagnosed sight problems and what is the impact of this? The Eyecare Trust estimates that one in five children has an undetected problem with their vision 6. Undiagnosed sight problems can have a large impact on education. If children cannot see the board in the classroom clearly this may lead to headaches or eye strain. If a lazy eye is not treated while a child is very young, they can be left with a lazy eye forever, excluding them from some jobs. 22. What is the cost of sight loss to the NHS? 89,500 falls requiring hospital treatment occur each year as a result of visual impairment, costing the NHS 269 million 7. Evidence from the RNIB shows that health care system costs amount to 2.15 billion What is the cost of sight loss to the economy? According to the RNIB, sight loss places a large economic cost on the UK, which totaled an estimated 22 billion in KEEPING EYES HEALTHY 24. I am diabetic, can that lead to sight problems?

9 Yes it can, people with diabetes are at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. The NHS Choices website explains that: diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes in which the retina, a part of the eye, becomes progressively damaged. During the initial stages, diabetic retinopathy does not cause any symptoms. However, if it is not treated it can cause partial, followed by total, loss of vision Is dry eyes a real syndrome? Yes it is. It can be caused by a lack of tears due to age, use of certain drugs or the environment that you work in. Or it can be caused by a change in the quality of tears, which may mean they evaporate too quickly. 26. What is glaucoma? Glaucoma is the name for a group of eye diseases where the pressure of the fluid inside the eye is too high and damages the delicate structures at the back of the eye. The most common form of glaucoma has few or no symptoms in the early stages and can be quite advanced and have done a lot of damage before the sufferer is aware of it. Early detection through regular sight tests can prevent this. 27. What is macular degeneration? The macula is the very sensitive area at the centre of the back of the eye that we use for our fine vision, reading, recognising faces etc. In some people, particularly with age, this area deteriorates causing a loss of central vision, this is called macular degeneration (AMD). There are two types of AMD, wet and dry. The wet type can cause damage very quickly, but there is treatment available if it is detected early. The more common dry type 10

10 progresses more slowly but there is no treatment available for this other than possible prevention through a healthy diet and lifestyle. 28. Is there anything I can eat or a supplement I can take to preserve my eyesight? A healthy diet containing a good range of foods and including green leafy vegetables may be sufficient for most people. Stopping smoking and only drinking moderate amounts of alcohol have been shown to help to keep eyes healthy. 29. Are there any eye exercises I can do to preserve my eye sight? It is unlikely that eye care professionals would say that exercises could preserve your eye sight. Eye exercises are sometimes recommended to strengthen eye muscles if the eyes have become dissociated. NATIONAL EYE HEALTH WEEK 30. When is National Eye Health Week? National Eye Health Week is taking place June What should I look out for during National Eye Health Week? A wide variety of events and activities will be running during the Week from eye awareness stunts on UK high streets to local community events. The Week s organisers will be inviting the public to think about the sights they love the most through facebook and twitter campaigns and releasing important news about the status of eye health in the media. Information materials will be disseminated and available in a wide range of outlets from business workplaces through to opticians and GP surgeries. The Week s organisers will also have a presence at the UK Vision Conference and the Department of Health.

11 To ensure eye health gets the focus and attention it needs among healthcare professionals, an awareness event for parliamentarians will take place encouraging both MPs and members of the public to contact their local NHS organisation and lobby for a greater focus on this critical health issue. Over 300 organisations took part in the Week last year running events ranging from vision-based outdoor challenges through to poster competitions in schools. Visit our website to find out what s happening in your area. 32. Who is organising National Eye Health Week? The Week is driven by a range of organisations in the optical sector including vision charities and professional bodies. These organisations form a steering group composed of: Vision2020UK; the RNIB; Association of Optometrists; Allergan; Specsavers; FODO; UK Vision Strategy; the College of Optometrists; Pfizer; the Eyecare Trust; the Eye Health Alliance; the Department of Health; SeeAbility; the International Glaucoma Association.

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