World Sight Day reminds us to put vision first

Benefits of eye tests are clear to see

This World Sight Day, the Association of Optometrists Ireland (AOI) and the Federation of Ophthalmic and Dispensing Opticians (FODO) Ireland are urging everyone to visit their local optical practice for an eye test if they haven’t done so for two years.

Half of visual impairment can be corrected if diagnosed and treated properly. Yet research by FODO Ireland shows that over half of people in Ireland have not had an eye exam in the last two years, which is the recommended period between check-ups.

World Sight Day reminds us that an eye examination every two years is vital – not just for maintaining good sight but also for revealing a range of diseases and conditions.

For adults and children, an eye exam is “as essential as a regular trip to the dentist,” said Sean McCrave, Chief Executive Officer of AOI. “It is not just to determine if you need glasses or contact lenses, it is also a vital health check that can lead to the prevention of serious eye conditions.”

An estimated 224,832 people in Ireland had a sight problem in 2010 – a figure expected to rise to 271,996 by 2020. Experts believe the economic cost of visual impairment and blindness in the Republic of Ireland is likely to reach €2.7bn by 2020 – up from €2.1bn in 2010.

But the real cost is to people’s health. An eye test not only detects sight problems and eye diseases like glaucoma, but also serious health issues like diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, all of which are best discovered early.

Sean said: “There is an increasing prevalence of sight-related problems due to an ageing population, and what is most important is early diagnosis. An optometrist is ideally placed to provide the care people need, be it reassurance, fitting glasses or contact lenses, treatment of routine conditions, or monitoring of an existing condition.”

It’s equally as important for children to have regular sight tests. A two-year-old toddler’s life was saved this year when an optometrist spotted a rare tumour after her mother took her for an eye test in Glasgow. The optometrist saw that Erika ‘Boo’ Lee-Johnston was showing symptoms of a craniopharyngioma tumour, which an emergency test at hospital confirmed. It saved her life.

FODO Ireland Chair Garvan Mulligan said: “If at any stage people notice changes in the appearance of the eye or pain or discomfort, they should see their local optical practice without delay. Children should also have an eye exam at least once every two years. Poor vision effects children’s learning in school, but this can be easily avoided through timely diagnosis.”