Don’t be tempted to ignore sudden eye problems
Eye health experts are warning people not to risk permanent visual impairment by ignoring the early signs of trouble.
Juliat Burns, head of clinical services at Rochdale NHS Ophthalmology Clinical Assessment and Treatment Service (CATS), said: “Sometimes people choose to ignore changes in their vision in the hope that the problem will go away. Others think they will leave it for six months or more until their next regular check-up. We hope National Eye Health Week (18-24 September) will show people not only the importance of annual eye tests but also the importance of being aware of their eye health throughout the year.
“Seeing your optician as soon as a problem arises can lead to a speedy referral to a consultant and that can save your sight. In the case of Wet AMD, a condition that leads to the degeneration of the macula, a 48-hour referral and treatment from diagnosis can dramatically increase the level of sight saved.”
Changes in vision that should send you to your optician include:
- Flashing lights: The sudden onset of unexplained flashing lights can be a sign that you have a detached retina. This happens when the retina separates from the back of the inside of your eye. If a retinal detachment is not diagnosed and treated quickly it may result in a loss of some or all of the vision in your eye.
- Blurring vision: A blurring of your central vision can be a warning sign of macular degeneration. Blind spots and visual distortions, such as straight lines appearing wavy or crooked, may be a sign of Wet AMD, so you should call your optician and explain your symptoms, asking for an early appointment. If you need brighter light than normal when reading, or if text appears blurry or colours seem less vibrant, you may have Dry AMD and should contact your optician for an appointment.
- Things turn yellow: Cataracts are a clouding of the lens in your eye. Cataracts occur when changes in the lens cause the eye to become less transparent. While this may be a natural part of ageing, some people develop cataracts in their forties and fifties. A yellow or brown tinge to your vision may be an indicator of cataracts. You may have discomfort driving at night, as the glare from bright lights may be dazzling or uncomfortable, or they may form a halo. Double vision may also occur. The most common reason opticians initially see someone is that their current glasses prescription no longer works for them.
- Loss of peripheral vision: Glaucoma does not usually have early symptoms and is commonly picked up by opticians during a routine eye test. However, if you have not had annual tests, the first symptom could be a loss of your vision at the side. Eye tenderness or pain, blurred vision and rings of light can also be symptoms. If you experience any of these symptoms, book an appointment with your optician who will, if necessary, refer you to a specialist for a diagnosis and treatment.
- Red eyes: There are several reasons for sore red eyes. An infection, such as conjunctivitis, causes a gritty but not painful sensation and is usually caused by an allergy. This can be easily treated once you have identified the issue and cause. Chemical burns from things such as household cleaners and foreign objects in the eye need immediate treatment. If you have loose particles in your eye or your eye has been exposed to chemicals, flush it out with an eyewash or plenty of clean water for at least 10 to 15 minutes. All eye injuries caused by chemical exposure should be seen by an ophthalmologist, GP or nurse as soon as possible after flushing and you should seek immediate medical advice if you still have foreign bodies in your eye after flushing it.
Rochdale NHS Ophthalmology CATS is the only ophthalmology service to be awarded an ‘outstanding’ grade by the Care Quality Commission (CQC). As well as running services from the Croft Shifa Centre in Rochdale the team operates a mobile service bringing vital Wet AMD treatment to patients in Greater Manchester, Chorley, Preston and South Ribble.