During National Eye Health Week (18 – 24 September) the Public Health Agency (PHA) is reminding everyone to have their eyes tested every two years and to be aware of the importance of good eye health and the steps to take to protect your vision.
Dr Jackie McCall, consultant in Public Health at the PHA, said: “Over 50% of sight loss is preventable, so ensuring that we all have regular eye examinations will help prevent, or limit, the damage caused by certain eye conditions.
“Regular sight checks are important for two reasons. Firstly, having your vision corrected can improve the quality of day-to-day life and secondly, regular sight tests can mean early detection of conditions such as cataracts, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration, which could lead to sight loss. In addition, evidence points to poor vision as a risk factor for falls.
“An optometrist may also be able to spot the signs of some broader health conditions with symptoms that affect the eyes, such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Eye examinations for children are vital to ensure that any visual problems such as squint, lazy eye (amblyopia) or short-sightedness (myopia) are detected and treated early to optimise vision.”
Other important steps people can take to help keep their eyes healthy include:
Stopping smoking. For help and advice see www.want2stop.info
Protecting eyes in bright sunlight or glare.
Eating well and taking regular exercise. For help and advice see www.choosetolivebetter.com
Wearing safety goggles to protect your eyes while doing DIY and/or sporting activities.
Taking regular breaks if working at a computer screen.
Wearing goggles when necessary in the workplace.
Dr McCall continued: “If you do notice a change to your sight, never dismiss it as ‘just part of getting older’ – visit your local optometrist without delay. Regular eye examinations should form part of everyone’s health routine; after all, looking after your eye health is just as important as looking after the rest of your body, and can enable you to catch 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 Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) commissions NHS eye examinations from over 270 easily-accessible registered optometry practices in Northern Ireland.
Raymond Curran, head of ophthalmic services at HSCB, commented: “The Health and Social Care Board welcomes this PHA initiative to raise awareness of both the importance of regular sight tests and of the effects of lifestyle choices to eyes and vision. These important messages are well known, but are always worth repeating, especially during National Eye Health Week.”
For information on who is eligible for an NHS eye examination please see www.pha.site/sight-test
David Galloway, Northern Ireland director of RNIB, said: “RNIB fully supports this advice from the PHA. Regular sight tests are an effective way of monitoring your eye health and they are free for many people. If you want to check whether you are eligible for a free sight test, call the RNIB Helpline on 0303 123 9999.”