RNIB Scotland has expressed concern that the recent coronavirus crisis may lead to a rise in preventable sight loss if people neglect eye treatment or regular check-ups.
During National Eye Health Week (20-26 September) this week, we will remind people that going for regular eye examinations remains as important as ever.
The charity's director, James Adams, said: "A lot has happened over the past 18 months with the coronavirus pandemic. But we must not neglect other health matters such as our vision because of this.
"Eye examinations are free in Scotland and 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. It is entirely safe to visit your local optometrist."
Julie Mosgrove, Vice Chair of Optometry Scotland, said: “We've been communicating regularly with our members to share the latest Scottish Government guidance throughout the pandemic in relation to personal protective equipment (PPE) and social distancing measures.
“We would stress the importance of attending regular eye examinations as this is a vital health check that can detect a number of conditions and prevent avoidable sight loss.”
As part of RNIB Scotland's campaign, Bruce Christie from Westhill in Aberdeenshire has recorded a short video for the charity describing how an eye examination prevented his sight condition getting worse. "I got my eyes tested a few times but to be honest I let it slip a bit as I was always too busy. When I was about 35, I did go to get my eyes tested again and suddenly found the optician couldn't fill my prescription. While I'm partially sighted now 20 years later, had I not gone to get my eyes tested I know for sure I would be completely blind.
"While it's 15 or 20 minutes out of your life, it can actually save your sight, so I'd recommend you do it."
Hazel Kelly from Edinburgh said an eye examination had also prevented blindness. "In my case, a routine check up by my optician picked up on something and referred me to my local eye hospital, where I was diagnosed with the beginning of two rare corneal conditions," she said. "This referral ensured I got early treatment which prevented me from actually going blind. While I still have issues, if these conditions hadn't been picked up earlier then the outcomes for me could have been far, far worse."
According to a "State of the UK’s Eye Health 2021" report, commissioned by Specsavers and eye health experts, there were 4.3 million fewer eye tests across the UK in 2020, a worrying 23 per cent drop compared to the last 12 months.
James Adams said: "Every survey shows that sight is the sense people fear losing most. Yet we can be surprisingly complacent about our eyes. During National Eye Health Week, we want to remind everyone to take care of one of the most precious things we have – our sight.”
RNIB provides information about all aspects of eye health and a wide range of support to people experiencing problems with their sight, from emotional reassurance and counselling, to practical help with new technology and welfare benefits. Contact RNIB's Sight Loss Advice Service on 0303 123 9999 or visit rnib.org.uk/eyehealth.