Eye Health & Sight Loss
This week during National Eye Health Week we’re looking at the resources available to people with a visual impairment, their family, friend or carer. We also look at tips for good eye health to help with avoidable sight loss.
When someone in your family or someone you care for starts to lose their sight or is diagnosed with an eye condition, it can be a very worrying time for all concerned. Adapting to an entirely new and unexpected situation can be difficult. To avoid being overwhelmed we’ve partnered with Thomas Pocklington Trust Tyne & Wear Sight Loss Council to put together some helpful information and tips to help you take control of your own eye health.
What you need to know
In surveys, people almost always identify sight as their most valuable sense. But did you know that 50% of sight loss is avoidable?
It’s easy to neglect your eyes because they often do not hurt when there’s a problem. Having an eye test will not just tell you if you need new glasses or a change of prescription – it’s also an important eye health check. An optician can spot many general health problems and early signs of eye conditions before you’re aware of any symptoms. Many of which can be treated if found early enough.
The College of Optometrists recommends that everyone over the age of 16 should have an eye test every two years, and more frequently if they have an eye problem. Children should have annual tests.
How can I keep my eyes healthy?
Here are some tips to keep your eyes healthy:
- Get regular eye tests.
- Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun.
- Eat healthily, particularly plenty of fruit and vegetables which have specific nutrients that are important for eye health.
- Stop smoking. Smoking is harmful to eyes – research has shown that smoking increases the risk of age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma and cataracts. Cigarette smoke irritates the eyes and will worsen dry eyes.
Where to get help
If you, a family member or person you care for starts to show signs that their vision has deteriorated or become impaired and/or they have other problems with their eyes such as inflammation, dryness or pain what should you do? You can call you’re your GP or use NHS 111 service. The NHS 111 service can be accessed either online via 111.nhs.uk or by dialling 111 on your telephone keypad. NHS 111 is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Calls from landlines and mobile phones are free.
The 3 main causes of sight loss are:
If you or someone in your family or someone you care for is diagnosed with an eye condition, find out as much as you can about that condition. Look at how it will affect vision and what you/they can do to make the most of their available sight.
The ‘What do we see?’ video simulates how the world looks through the eyes of people who are visually impaired as they go about their everyday lives.
It’s good advice when attending any eye appointments to ask as many questions as possible and make a note of the answers. Having someone with you when you can go to the appointment will also help.
All of the Eye hospitals in the North East have an Eye Clinic Liaison Officer (ECLO). ECLOs have lots of knowledge on eye conditions and helpful local and national services. By offering dedicated individual care, ECLOs can talk to you about your worries and give you advice on how to lessen the impact your eye condition may have on your life. You should automatically be offered this service, but don’t be afraid to ask about it if you’re not.
Coming to terms with sight loss can be a massive challenge. Reactions to being diagnosed with sight loss tend to be similar to bereavement – you may experience feelings of denial, anger and fear.
What aids can help me at home if I have a visual impairment?
There are a number of optical aids and gadgets that can help improve your vision and keep you living independently. You’re most likely to need different types for specific activities, such as reading a book or watching television.
The simplest optical aids are special magnifiers, which can help with tasks such as reading a newspaper. Magnifiers may be hand-held, have their own stand, or may be built into your glasses.
Other aids include:
- computer screen magnifiers
- big button telephones
- large print books and newspapers
- talking books
- large print board games and card games
- screen readers
- talking watches
- bumpons which can be purchased from RNIB
For advice on optical aids, ask your doctor or eye specialist to refer you to a low-vision clinic, where specialist staff can assess which aids would help you most and suggest ways to make the best possible use of the sight you have.
They can usually loan any equipment to you for you to try out. If you register as blind or partially sighted, your local authority should contact you for an assessment.
The following provide a range of advice and support:
- Eye Clinic Liaison Officer at Newcastle Eye Centre (RVI)
- North Tyneside Council Mobility and Independence service undertake assessments and long cane training for people who live with vision loss. Call 0191 643 2777 (office hours).
- Guiding a blind or partially sighted person
- Newcastle Vision Support – Newcastle based sight loss charity
- Vital Tech website – a guide through the world of assistive technology for blind and partially sighted people in the UK.
- Thomas Pocklington Trust
- Henshaws Knowledge Village
- The Macular Society
- Glaucoma UK
- Retina UK
- Blind Veterans UK
- Guide Dogs
- ‘Be My Eyes’ app
If you care for someone with a visual impairment, or if you are visually impaired yourself, you may be entitled to additional financial support. To find out more, call the Age UK North Tyneside Information & Advice team on 0191 280 8484 option 1 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.