During National Eye Health Week (21–27 September) the Public Health Agency (PHA) is reminding everyone of the importance of good eye health and the need for everyone to have their eyes tested every two years.
Dr Jackie McCall, Consultant in Public Health at the PHA, said: “This week offers a valuable opportunity to remind everyone of the importance of having regular eye tests.
“Over 50% of sight loss is preventable, so ensuring that we all have regular eye examinations will help prevent, or limit, the damage to their sight 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, perhaps more importantly, 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: “Regular eye examinations should form part of everyone’s health routine. After all, looking after your eyes is just as important as looking after the rest of your body.
“If you do notice a change to your sight, never dismiss it as ‘just part of getting older’ – visit your local optometrist immediately”.
David Barnes, Chairman of Optometry Northern Ireland said: “Some eye diseases can be symptomless in the early stages but can be detected via an eye test, likewise many of us feel like our vision deteriorating is just “one of those things”, therefore having a regular eye test helps maintain good vision and eye health”.
The Health and Social Care Board commissions NHS eye examinations from over 260 easily-accessible registered optometry practices in Northern Ireland. For information on who is eligible for an NHS eye examination please seewww.hscbusiness.hscni.net/services/1778.htm