Keep vision 20/20: Don"t overlook sight tests

Keep vision 20/20: Don"t overlook sight tests

Britons, particularly those who wear Contact lenses, must ensure they have regular eye exams. Not only is this vital to ensure they are wearing the right lenses and using the correct solution, it also gives opticians the chance to check up on other elements of eye and general health. An eye test can warn of many other diseases, so having regular checks is a good indicator of overall health.

Recent research carried out showed that 86 per cent of people fear losing their sight above all other senses. However, despite this high level of concern, nearly a fifth of the people questioned had not had an eye test in the last five years. This puts them at risk of wearing out-of-date contact lenses or could mean they need laser eye surgery without realising it.

Many said they had not been to see an optician because they had not experienced any problems with their eyesight or did not feel a test was necessary. Financial reasons were also cited.

"People just don"t realise the importance of having a sight test," commented Giles Butler from the Federation of Opthalmic and Dispensing Opticians. "I think the main one is that people think unless they feel they have a problem, they don"t need to bother. But a sight test can also detect other defects without you showing any symptoms," he explained.

As well as picking up on problems such as short or long sight and colour blindness, an eye examination can reveal whether a person has glaucoma, a disease which damages the optic nerve and leads to progressive and irreversible loss of vision, explained David Scott-Ralphs, chairman of National Eye Health Week. "But there are others such as diabetes or hypertonia which can be picked up through an eye examination," he added.

Kate Fielding, director of communications and information for the General Optical Council, stated: "Regular eye examinations should be part of your health routine. An eye examination is not just to check whether or not you need glasses to see long distances or read easily. An eye examination can also find any underlying health problems, like high blood pressure or diabetes."

The experts advised having a test carried out every two years and reassured people that it is not painful. Nor is it expensive or very time-consuming.

In between eye exams, people can do many things to look after their eyes, which is particularly important if they already wear contact lenses, and in turn boost their general health as well. From eating healthily to wearing sunglasses when outside, there are several simple steps to take.

Our diet has an effect on vision, and although carrots will not make you see in the dark, they are beneficial. Anything with anti-oxidants is good for the eyes as they can help to prevent retinal damage. Eat lots of things such as spinach, brightly-coloured fruit and vegetables, oily fish and eggs. Taking plenty of exercise is also related to good eye health, especially for those over the age of 60.

Smoking increases the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts and sun damage is also a big danger factor, so ditch the tobacco and wear shades when outdoors.

Ageing is a big risk factor for many eye health problems, so doing what you can to look after your eyes becomes increasingly important as you get older. "There are around 500,000 people in the UK affected by age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and because it is predominantly a disease of older people, it is going to become much more prevalent as society continues to age," commented Cathy Yelf, spokesperson at the Macular Disease Society. "It"s going to become a very significant problem in the future. As the population ages, more people are likely to develop AMD. So first of all understanding the causes of it and knowing what people can do to help themselves to protect their eyesight is very important. Obviously in time, finding treatments and a cure for this is going to be incredibly important."

by Alexa Kaczka

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