It is National Eye Health Week and one local grandmother is sharing her story in the hope it encourages others to get their eyes checked as soon as any potential problems arise. Daria Neklesa reports on why it is vital to get regular eye checks
Retired teacher Margaret Clark was not unduly worried when she developed an eye problem.
Little did the Preston grandmother know it could have resulted in her losing the sight in that eye.
She avoided that outcome because she decided to ring her optician for advice.
The 76-year-old from Longton had first noticed the problem when a black line suddenly appeared in her field of vision.
On hearing her symptoms Margaret’s optician asked her to attend an urgent appointment.
Margaret said: “At that point I was not really that bothered and thought it was a lot of fuss about nothing, but then you can’t mess about with your eyes.
“The optician examined me and said I had to go straight to the hospital. They had found a tear in my retina.
“It was then that I realised how serious the situation was as I have a friend who has lost the vision in one of her eyes after she suffered a detached retina.
“She was on holiday and by the time she managed to get her eye looked at, it was already too late to save the sight in her eye.”
Thankfully for Margaret, her retinal tear was repaired with laser surgery the very next day.
She added: “Your eyes are just so important and you don’t realise how important your vision is until you lose it.
“Eye tests are very straight forward and even the laser surgery I had wasn’t painful. Thanks to the surgery, I am still able to continue my life as before – I can still drive and enjoy my independence.
“If I hadn’t made that phone call to my optician things could have turned out very differently. After my experience, I would strongly recommend everyone attends a regular eye test.”
More than 41,000 people are currently living with sight loss in Lancashire and that figure is set to rise by more than a quarter by 2030.
But research from the RNIB shows that the number of people accessing free NHS sight tests has fallen in Lancashire.
Meanwhile every day scores of people across the county are being told they have a serious eye condition such as Age Related Macular Degeneration or glaucoma - conditions which have the potential to rob an individual of their sight.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an eye condition which affects a tiny part of the retina at the back of your eye, which is called the macula and causes problems with your central vision, (see photograph above), but does not usually lead to total loss of sight and is not painful.
Glaucoma is the name given to a group of eye conditions that cause sight loss by damaging your optic nerve. The sight loss caused by glaucoma is permanent, while treatments can’t restore any sight loss, it can prevent it from happening in the first place
With more than 50 per cent of sight loss arising from preventable or controllable conditions, health experts continue to urge members of the public to get their eyes tested.That message will be repeated throughout the week.
Local eye health professionals are backing the National Eye Health campaign which seeks to encourage people to look after their sight.
Optometrist Chris Dineen, from Peter Booth opticians in Penwortham, said: “Regular sight tests can help detect underlying problems before they cause permanent damage to people’s vision.“Eye tests are quick and easy and can help prevent sight loss in the future.”
Local sight loss charity Galloway’s is also taking part in the campaign by highlighting important eye health messages.
Stuart Clayton, chief executive of Galloway’s, said: “As a local charity supporting thousands of blind and partially sighted people each year, we know just how important it is to attend your regular sight test. More than two million people in the UK are living with sight loss severe enough to have a significant impact on their daily lives, and yet half of this sight loss is in fact avoidable. Sight tests can detect early signs of conditions like glaucoma, which can be treated if found soon enough. Other health conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure may also be detected. To look after your eyes, eat well, don’t smoke and always make sure you wear eye protection in bright sunlight.
“Throughout National Eye Health Week Galloway’s will be highlighting the importance of eye health and giving advice on the best ways to protect your eyesight.”• In Lancashire 371,998 NHS sight tests taken in 2016/2017. That was some 2,603 less than in the previous year.
You are entitled to a free NHS sight test if you:
• are under 16 or are 16, 17 or 18 and in full-time education
• are aged 60 or over
• are registered as partially sighted or blind
• have diabetes or glaucoma
• are 40 or over and a parent, sibling or child has been diagnosed with glaucoma
• have been advised that you’re at risk of glaucoma
• are a prisoner on leave from prison
• are eligible for an NHS complex lens voucher
•You also qualify for a free NHS sight test if you are in receipt of certain benefits.
The organisers of National Eye Health Week are asking people to tell their friends and colleagues about it to promote eye health.
•National Eye Health Week runs from September 23 – 29. For more information on how to protect your eyesight or how to help support Galloway’s, which has four county centres, see www.galloways.org.uk