Looking after your peepers is important, but did you know that your eye check-up can also shine a light on other health issues you may have? This year’s National Eye Health Week is set to take place from the 23rd to 29th September 2019. So many of us neglect our eyes but it really is worth your while to prioritise your eye health!
Often our eyes do not hurt when there’s a problem. Having an eye test will not just tell you if you need 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.
How often should I have an eye test? The NHS recommends that you should get your eyes tested every 2 years (more often if advised by your ophthalmic practitioner or optometrist).
What should I do if I notice a change in my sight? Visit your opticians or GP if you’re concerned about any aspect of your vision at any time.
Are some people more at risk from eye disease than others? Some people are more at risk. It’s particularly important to have regular eye tests if you’re: older than 60 from a certain ethnic group – people from African-Caribbean communities are at greater risk of developing glaucoma and diabetes, and people from south Asian communities are also at greater risk of developing diabetes (diabetic retinopathy, where the retina becomes damaged, is a common complication of diabetes) someone with a learning disability from a family with a history of eye disease
What health conditions can also be detected during an eye health checkup?
Dementia: Specific types of dementia can damage the visual system and cause visual difficulties, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Rarer forms of dementia, such as posterior cortical atrophy can also cause visual difficulties.
Diabetes: An eye test can detect the condition before you notice any changes to your vision. Diabetes can affect small blood vessels in the eye, damaging the retina, which is vital for sight. Early characteristic changes, such as tiny leaks from damaged blood vessels can be detected.
High blood pressure: Patients with high blood pressure can develop a condition called hypertensive retinopathy. In this condition blood vessel walls can thicken, narrowing the vessels and restricting blood flow. In some cases, the retina becomes swollen and the blood vessels can leak.
Cardiovascular disease: Having high cholesterol - which can lead to heart problems or a stroke - doesn’t usually have any symptoms. However, it can cause blockages in any of the body’s blood vessels, including those in the eyes. Little lumps of cholesterol can be spotted running through the blood vessels. These can block blood vessels resulting in short episodes of visual loss.
Arthritis: Autoimmune forms of the disease, like rheumatoid arthritis, as well as causing inflammation in your joints, can also cause inflammation in your eyes. This inflammation can very commonly cause dry eye, occasionally it can cause more serious conditions like inflammation of the iris.
Tumours: You may know that eye tests can detect cancers of the eye such as melanomas, but they can also detect signs of brain tumours.Swelling of the optic nerves can be visible during an eye test and can indicate that a brain tumour is present.