MILLIONS of people have missed out on vital eye tests during lockdown, potentially putting their eyesight and wider health at risk, warn Specsavers Ópticas in the lead up to World Sight Day on October 8.

Specsavers clinical services director Giles Edmonds says: ‘50% of sight loss is avoidable with early detection, however, during the pandemic many people may not have had access to these diagnostic tests. Not only does this mean their eyesight is at risk but potentially other aspects of their health too. 

‘That’s because while there are several changes we may notice in our vision which could be a sign of a wider health condition, there are also some things that can only be detected during an eye test.

‘It is important to make an appointment with your optometrist if you are seeing certain things, such as persistent floaters, or notice changes with your eyes such as blurred vision or yellowing of the eyes. However, it is also important to keep up your regular eye checks – even if you don’t think there is anything wrong with your vision – because something could be happening which you are completely unaware of.’

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For World Sight Day, Specsavers Ópticas has shared five changes you may notice in your eyes and what they mean, as well as conditions that can be detected during an eye test, to support the IAPB’s mission to ask people to “pledge to take an eye exam – and encourage others to do the same” this October:

Five signs to look out for:

Red spots/blood vessels

‘Red spots on the front of your eyes can be caused by a number of conditions, from mild irritations to broken blood vessels; these breaks can be from something as simple as a cough or a sneeze,’ says Mr Edmonds. ‘While in most cases they are nothing to worry about, if your eyes remain red for some time or cause pain it is important to get them looked at as it could be an indication of high blood pressure.

Persistent floaters

Mr Edmonds says: ‘Floaters are spots in your vision and usually look like black or grey specs, spots or cobwebs that drift about when you move your eyes. Most people will experience floaters in their vision at some point in their life – particularly as we reach older age as the jelly-like substance in our eyes changes.

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‘If you notice more eye floaters than usual, especially a sudden onset of new ones, flashes of light in the eye or darkness on any side of your vision, you must get it looked at immediately as it could signify a tear in your retina or injury in the back of your eye.’

White or grey ring

‘Some people may notice a tinted ring appear around their iris, particularly as they age, this is most often white or grey in appearance’ says Mr Edmonds. ‘Whilst it is most usually caused by normal aging it can be linked to cholesterol levels. They are more common in those aged 60 and above and aren’t usually something to worry about. However, if these develop in the under 40s, there may be a greater risk of elevated cholesterol being the cause developing heart disease.’

Eyelid changes

‘Typically, any changes on your eye lids such as lumps and bumps are not serious,’ says Mr Edmonds. ‘They mostly resolve themselves but if you are worried then you contact your optometrist. Some reasons to seek help would be if you think it is an allergic reaction, if it is lasting a long time, getting larger / worse or if there is discomfort and pain. Of course, if it is causing you to be concerned then you should contact your optometrist straight away.’

Blurred vision

‘Blurred vision can be caused by many things and it is vital you get it checked out, especially if it happens suddenly. Usually it is a refractive change, these are normal for most people over time. Diabetes raises the risk of experiencing diabetic retinopathy where high blood sugar levels damage tiny blood vessels in the eye that sense light which can result in blurry vision. 

‘The sudden onset of blurry vision is quite unusual but can be caused by a number of more serious eye conditions. It could also be a sign of stroke, particularly if combined with some of the other key signs such as slurred speech and dropping of the face. Blurry vision could also indicate other eye conditions such as cataract or age-related macular degeneration too.’

Five concerns your optometrist can spot:

Glaucoma

‘Glaucoma is often symptomless as it develops so gradually. That’s why it is often referred to as the silent thief of sight,’ says Mr Edmonds. ‘It is one of the leading causes of blindness, however, if it is identified in its early stages it can be successfully managed. Regular eye examinations are key to detecting it – and are so important to those at greater risk of the condition due to their older age or family history. 

‘At Specsavers we use advanced diagnostic equipment called OCT (Optical Coherence Tomography) to examine the eye in more detail and are able to pick up any damage to the optic nerve which is typical of glaucoma.’

Diabetic retinopathy

‘In its early stages diabetic retinopathy usually doesn’t pose any noticeable symptoms, so an eye test can pick it up before you do,’ Mr Edmonds says. ‘As the condition affects small blood vessels in the eye, damaging the retina, your optometrist can look for early characteristic changes, such as tiny leaks from these damaged vessels.’ 

High blood pressure

‘During an eye test, your optometrist might spot signs of high blood pressure, through observing the eye’s blood vessels to see if they have narrowed, changed shape or started leaking.  Patients with high blood pressure can develop a condition called hypertensive retinopathy which sees the walls of blood vessels thicken, narrow and restrict blood flow. In some cases the retina also becomes swollen and the blood vessels can leak.’  

Arthritis

‘As well as causing inflammation of the joints, some autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and linked conditions, can also cause inflammation in the eyes,’ Mr Edmonds says. ‘This inflammation usually leads to dry eye but occasionally it can cause more serious conditions like swelling and inflammation of the iris.’ 

Tumours

‘While an eye test can look for any cancers of the eye such as melanomas, it will sometimes reveal signs of possible brain tumours,’ Mr Edmonds says. ‘Swelling in the optic nerves can be visible during an eye test and can sometimes indicate that a brain tumour is present.’ 

There are Specsavers Ópticas stores in Santa Ponça in Mallorca, Marbella and Fuengirola on the Costa del Sol and Javea, Calpe, Benidorm, Torrevieja, Guardamar and La Zenia on the Costa Blanca. For more information or to request an appointment at your local store, visit www.specsavers.es 

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