Shop RNIB Donate now

Don't neglect your sight, charity warns

RNIB Scotland has joined forces with Optometry Scotland during National Eye Health Week this week to highlight the importance of going for regular eye examinations

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.

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.”

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 RNIB Scotland director James Adams.

He went on: "Surveys show that sight is the sense people fear losing most. Yet we can be surprisingly complacent about it. Yet 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."

Michael Hughes (65) from Stranraer had a malignant melanoma diagnosed during a routine eye examination at his local optometrist.

An optical coherence tomography scan during his examination detected a small curve in the back of his eye, prompting optometrist, Elaine Hawthorn at Specsavers in Stranraer to refer him for observation hospital at Gartnavel General Hospital.

Fortunately, 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.