Concerns have been raised that the recent Covid crisis may have led to a rise in preventable sight loss if people continue to postpone check-ups at their local optometrists.
Optometry Scotland, the representative body for optometrists and dispensing opticians in Scotland, and national sight loss charity, RNIB Scotland, have joined forces during National Eye Health Week this week to highlight the importance of going for regular eye examinations, which are free for everyone in Scotland.
Julie Mosgrove, Chair of Optometry Scotland, said:
“National Eye Health Week provides an opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of regular eye exams and we’re delighted to work alongside a fantastic charity that supports people with sight loss to help illustrate this message.
“Regular eye examinations don’t just indicate changes in our glasses prescription but can also help to detect eye health conditions such as glaucoma and other health issues including strokes and, in rare cases, even brain tumours.
“We typically recommend that people have an eye examination every two years unless they are advised to have them more frequently by their optometrist.
“Your optometrist should always be your first port of call for any problems with your eyes.”
RNIB Scotland director, James Adams, said: “Surveys show that sight is the sense people fear losing most. Yet we can be surprisingly complacent about it.
“Eye examinations can not only detect early signs of sight problems, possibly in time to arrest or reverse damage, but also sometimes pick up the symptoms of other conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes. During National Eye Health Week, we want to remind everyone to take care of one of the most precious things we have – our sight.”
For people with progressive sight loss, optometry practices can now directly refer them to RNIB Scotland’s eye care liaison officer service, which provides both practical and emotional support. “It’s important that people have the help they need at all stages of their sight loss journey,” said Mr Adams.
Eye examinations can help to detect both eye conditions and wider heath issues. Below are two case studies of patients in Scotland who were subsequently diagnosed with a serious condition following an eye examination.
Life saving case study – malignant melanoma
Michael Hughes (65) from Stranraer, was offered an optical coherence tomography (OCT) scan during a routine eye examination which allows optometrists to look deeper into the eyes than ever before.
The scan highlighted a small curve in the back of Michael’s eye which caused optometrist, Elaine Hawthorn at Specsavers in Stranraer to refer him to hospital.
After being kept under observation at Gartnavel General Hospital, Michael was diagnosed with malignant melanoma, cancer in his eye.
Thankfully the cancer had not spread and he underwent 100 hours of radiotherapy to treat it. He now goes for regular scans to make sure the cancer has not returned.
Michael said: “I am so thankful to Elaine for offering me the OCT scan.
“I didn’t experience any symptoms and would have had no idea I had cancer if she hadn’t spotted that something wasn’t right.”
Elaine said: “Michael had no symptoms of malignant melanoma, which is often the case.
“His story demonstrates that eye examinations can detect a wide range of health conditions and new technology like OCT is helping to flag potential problems at an early stage.
If I hadn’t recommended adding an OCT to his appointment, I wouldn’t have spotted the change which caused me to get a second opinion.”
OCT scans are not currently included as part of an NHS eye examination. Optometry Scotland wish to champion the inclusion of such important new technology in future, ensuring it is universally available to all who may benefit from it.