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Monthly Archive for: ‘June, 2015’
In the UK it is national glaucoma awareness week.
The focus for National Glaucoma Awareness Week, 8-14 June 2015 is on driving and encouraging people to have regular eye health checks to ensure that they are safe to drive. It is only with regular eye health checks through a local optometrist (optician), that people will know if their driving vision is affected. This is particularly important with glaucoma, as it has no symptoms in the early stages. But, with early detection and continued treatment people will often retain useful sight for life and be safe to drive for many years
Driving and our ability and safety to do so, is something that many people take for granted. Yet, how many people have a regular eye health check to ensure that their vision is accurate? Even if a person can see a number plate at 20 metres, how many have been tested for glaucoma which affects vision?
There is an estimated 600,000 people with glaucoma in the UK, but 300,000 are undiagnosed. As there are no early symptoms it is vital that people over the age of 40 have regular eye health checks every one or two years. Advanced glaucoma leads to serious loss of sight. Comments Russell Young, CEO of the International Glaucoma Association “the majority of us wouldn’t take our cars on the road without an annual service and MOT yet, we are happy to put ourselves behind the wheel without knowing if we can see safely to drive. A visit to the optometrist will quickly check our safety and detect if there is any risk of glaucoma. Glaucoma is a complex condition, in that the brain fills in what the eyes cannot see. Many people will insist their vision is perfectly normal even when there is significant loss of vision”.
“Around 10 per cent of the calls we receive to our helpline are from people worried about whether their glaucoma is going to affect their ability to drive. Yet the majority of those that report to the DVLA will not need further tests, and of those that do most will be found safe to drive”, Young continues.
Glaucoma causes misty, patchy or blurred vision in places. It can cause people to miss the unexpected such as a person crossing the road, a cyclist passing, or a vehicle merging into traffic. The only way to know for sure about your vision and your safety on the roads is to have regular eye health checks every one to two years, particularly if you are over the age of 40.
“It is important people know if they do have glaucoma that has caused damage to vision in both eyes, they are required by law to report their condition to the DVLA. If they fail to do so they can face a criminal conviction, a fine up to £1000 and may be uninsured to drive. The good news about glaucoma is with ongoing treatment people can protect their vision and most people will retain useful sight for life”, Young concludes.
Glaucoma is called the thief of sight, because it painlessly damages vision, and can become fairly advanced before the sufferer even notices they have a problem.
Two recent clients highlight the importance of regular eye checkups.
The first was a lady who suddenly noticed that she could not see out of one eye- she was aware of being able to see finger movement to the extreme periphery in the eye, but was unable to see her hand straight in front of her face. She felt this had been a sudden onset, and because of that we squeezed her in – sudden losses of vision require urgent investigation. Unfortunately, on examination I was able to say that while she may have suddenly noticed the problem, it had been coming on for a number of years – Glaucoma is a fairly slowly advancing condition.
Because her other eye is unaffected (though both eyes are now being treated – eye drops once per day – to lower the pressure inside them), with proper care from the doctors and regular checks, she should have normal vision throughout life, so long as nothing else happens to the good eye. It is always better to have two good eyes than one, just in case.
Another recent example was a gent, not an old man, who had failed a driving sight test at the GP, so booked in to have one done by me. He had not had his eyes tested for at least ten years, and mentioned that he had been aware of a “greyness” in the right eye for the past year or so. His vision on the test chart was significantly worse in the right eye, and not improvable with a spectacle correction. As part of the driving sight test we always check the field of vision to ensure it is normal, and even with a fairly crude (but effective) check, it was obvious that he was unable to see very much in the poorer right eye, but even the other eye showed a significant defect- he was struggling to see to his right hand side with either eye. So his straight ahead vision was down in one eye, but his “around about” vision was affected in both. His eyes showed the characteristic damage of glaucoma – where the nerve connecting the eye to the brain withers slowly away.
I was unable to sign his form for driving- we cannot sign a form for someone with an undiagnosed and untreated eye disease. We referred him onward through his GP for an Ophthalmologist to have a look at his eyes, but even when this is treated and under control, he may no longer be able to drive. Glaucoma treatment is aimed at preventing further damage, but his peripheral vision is already quite badly affected and it is unlikely to improve, yet he was completely unaware of having a problem.
Regular eye tests are important – to lose the right to drive for something so easily prevented…..
Most adults are entitled to an eye test free of charge due to either Medical Card or PRSI entitlement, though certain civil servants on reduced PRSI rates, and the self employed (as ever) get no help. Even so, €35 for an eye test, recommended usually every 2 years -34 cent per week that works out.
You spend more than that on hair appointments, even men spend a lot more than that on haircuts. What price your sight?
To book an eye test give us a call in either Kingscourt or Bailieborough – the numbers are on this page.