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Get your eyes checked this National Eye Health Week

Look after your eyes by going for a regular sight test is the message of this year’s National Eye Health Week which runs from 18-24 September 2017.

Now in its eighth year, National Eye Health Week brings organisations and health professionals from across Wales together to raise awareness of the need for regular sight tests and how lifestyle habits can affect sight.

Regular sight tests provide the basis for maintaining good eye health, as some serious eye conditions do not have any visible early warning symptoms. Having a sight test with an optometrist should be part of everyone’s health care routine.

In Wales, there are 106,980 people living with sight loss, which is significant enough to impact their daily lives. This includes people who may not be wearing the right prescription glasses or contact lenses, people waiting for cataract operations and people living with partial sight or blindness.

Approximately 250 people in the UK, including 3 people in Wales lose their sight every day.

A new report published by the RNIB and high street opticians Specsavers shows that one in five people will live with sight loss in their lifetime despite at least half of all cases being avoidable[i].

Ceri Jackson, Director RNIB Cymru said: “Sight is incredibly precious and we live in an increasingly visual world. It is the sense we fear losing the most yet many of us don’t realise how best to look after our eyes.

“National Eye Health Week is an opportunity to raise awareness about eye health and the best ways to take care of your eyes.

“Every day in Wales 3 people lose their sight but at least 50 per cent of sight loss is avoidable with early detection and treatment. The most important thing people can do to look after their eyes is to go for regular sight tests.

“Research shows that more than 1 in 10 of us have never had our eyes tested. Many people think a sight test is just about checking whether your vision needs correcting with glasses or contact lenses. But there are other important reasons to have a sight test.

“A regular sight test can help detect eye conditions before you notice the effect on your sight, including health conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

“NHS eye tests are free for people aged 60+ years, for children, for those on income related benefit, and those at risk of eye disease because of a family history.

“Having a sight test with an optometrist at least once every two years should be part of everyone's health care routine.”

Here are some steps you can take to look after your eyes:

  1. Makes sure you have regular sight tests. Most people should have an eye test at least once every two years as over half of all sight loss is avoidable. Eye tests can check for eye conditions and general health issues too.
  1. You might be entitled to a free eye test - NHS eye tests are free for people aged 60+ years , for children, for people on income-related benefits and if you have a family history of eye disease. Also in Wales, over 90% of opticians are signed up to the Wales Eye Care Service (WECS) and provide free eye examinations for certain groups at risk of sight loss, including Black and Minority Ethnic Communities. For more information and to find your nearest optician, please see www.eyecare.wales.nhs.uk
  1. Stop smoking as this has been linked to eye conditions that can cause permanent damage to your sight.
  1. If you wear contact lenses remember to keep them clean. Always wash, rinse and dry your hands thoroughly before handling your lenses. If you wear reusable lenses clean your lenses and storage case thoroughly with a recommended solution from your optician.
  1. Eat well and exercise to maintain a healthy weight. This can also help prevent diabetes, which can also cause sight loss. Stock up on leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, nuts and seeds.
  1. Know your family history. Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness and can run in families. But, if caught early, it can be treated and controlled and your sight protected. So may sure you have regular sight tests.
  1. Protect your eyes in sunlight from harmful UV rays. Make sure you wear sunglasses with a CE or British Standard mark.
  1. Finally – take a break! We spend so much time looking at computer screens, this can put a strain on your eyes. So take a break every half hour and give your eyes the rest they deserve.

If you want to find out more about National Eye Health Week or how to look after your eyes, please contact sian.biddyr@rnib.org.uk

Notes

Events marking National Eye Health Week are taking place all over Wales. National Eye Health Week is a UK-wide campaign to raise awareness of eye health and the need for regular sight tests.

In Wales:

1.   The Wales Eye Care Conference is on Wednesday 20 September at Cardiff University School of Optometry and will include a short presentation about National Eye Health Week.

2.   Rebecca Evans, Health Minister is visiting Ysgol Creigiau on Wednesday 20 September to help us deliver eye health messages to children at an assembly.

3.   Optometry Wales are working with Welsh Government arranging three visits to optometry practices for Vaughan Gething, the Cabinet Secretary on Thursday 21 September. The visits will raise awareness of the importance of regular eye tests.

4.   Age Cymru are going to have an information stand about eye health at each of their shops in Monmouth, Caerphilly, Pontypridd, Ebbw Vale and Porthcawl. Staff are going to be giving out eye health messages to customers.

5.   Care and Repair and Managing Better are producing bilingual postcards for their Agency Staff to ask all clients they come into contact with that week some simple eye health messages eg When did you last have your eyes tested?

6.   Look out for eye health messages on digital road signs on the M4 and A470 during the week.

These will include messages such as “Get your eyes tested”, “Poor vision costs lives”.

7.   Prior to the week on 12 September, the RNIB eye pod is in Churchill Way, Cardiff. This is a free interactive sight loss simulator, which lets people experience what it would be like to live with sight loss. The pod will be promoting National Eye Health Week and the importance of regular eye checks to preserve sight.