Some 20 million Brits are risking avoidable sight loss because they do not take regular eye tests, according to charity the Eyecare Trust. Despite medical wisdom advising that everybody takes an eye exam at least once every two years, and once a year for over-70s and children under nine, one in ten adults in Britain have never had an eye test, the Trust has warned.
Vision loss can be an indicator of many conditions, some of which are temporary and others permanent. Although changes to our eyesight may seem easy to detect, the symptoms are often so gradual that we do not notice them until they become severe. There are a few warning signs to watch out for:
- Holding books or magazines closer to your face to read, or needing to move closer to the television
- Difficulty in recognising people’s faces
- Having trouble walking on bumpy surfaces
- Brushing against walls while walking
- Needing brighter lighting to carry out everyday tasks
- Difficulty distinguishing colours
If you have any of these symptoms, you should arrange to have an eye test as soon as possible. Although vision loss is commonly considered a natural part of getting older, this is not entirely true: it’s more accurate to say that there are a variety of eye conditions that become more common in your later years. Many are treatable if they are discovered early.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is most common in over-65s, although it can develop in the 40s. It begins as blurry or “wavy” vision and usually affects both eyes. There are two main types: “wet” and “dry” AMD – the first can be treated with drugs like Lucentis, while there is currently no treatment for dry AMD.
More common are refractive vision problems, like myopia, hyperopia and astigmatism. While these can be corrected by using glasses or contact lenses, laser eye surgery offers a more permanent solution. It’s a fast and almost painless procedure, and as the technology has become more advanced in recent years, it is now suitable for more people than ever. If you have been refused laser eye treatment in the past, it is worth trying again to see if it could help.
Another common eye condition is glaucoma, which causes blindness over a long period of time and is particularly dangerous because many of the symptoms, including loss of visual field, do not occur until the disease is advanced. Some types of glaucoma can be treated with eye drops, or in more severe cases, laser treatment or surgery.
Presbyopia is caused by the hardening of the lens, which makes it more difficult to focus on objects and printed material over time. Symptoms include eye strain when reading and blurred vision when transitioning between short and long viewing distances. It is another condition that can be corrected with laser treatment to reshape the cornea and correct the problem.
For healthy vision well into your later years, follow the Eyecare Trust’s advice and book an eye appointment at least once every two years – remember, the majority of conditions are much easier to treat if they are detected early!