People Urged To 'Protect Their Vision'

The Public Health Agency (PHA) has urged people to take steps to protect their vision, with more than half of sight loss being preventable.

Marking Save Your Vision Month [March], Dr Jackie McCall, Consultant in Public Health at the PHA, said: "Looking after your eyes at all stages of life is extremely important. One-in-five of us will experience sight loss in our lifetime, but more than half of these cases could be prevented. There are lots of ways you can keep your eyes in better shape such as regular eye tests, being physically active, eating healthily and stopping smoking.

"A routine eye examination can often pick up the first signs of a sight loss condition even before there are any symptoms. Early detection and intervention could save your sight, or keep a condition under control. As well as helping people to see better, a routine eye test can also detect a range of life-threatening conditions such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease, among others."

Raymond Curran, Head of Ophthalmic Services at the Department of Health, added: "Sight is the sense people say they fear losing the most, but every 15 minutes someone in the UK starts to lose their sight. Half of sight loss is avoidable.
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"There are 270 high street optometry practices across Northern Ireland, all of which are open and accessible, and provide a range of services, investigations, treatments, and advice to help people who have concerns about their vision. Community optometrists are well placed to support people to look after their eyes through routine and regular eye examinations. These visits are funded for children, those over 60 years, people living with diabetes or a family history of glaucoma, and for a range of low-income groups."

Other key steps you can take to maintain good eye health include:

• Quit smoking – for outlined guidance and support visit www.StopSmokingNI.info

• Protect your eyes in bright sunlight and/or glare.

• Eat healthily and exercise regularly – for help and advice visit www.ChooseToLiveBetter.com

• Wear safety goggles to protect your eyes while doing DIY, gardening, sporting activities and/or in the workplace if required.

• Take regular and short breaks if working at a computer screen, phone or tablet.

Dr McCall concluded: "We would encourage everyone to make a conscious effort to keep their eyes in good shape. If you notice a sudden change in vision, flashes or floaters contact your local optometrist as soon as possible."

For more information on how to look after your eyes, visit www.pha.site/LookAfterYourEyes

Eye examinations are free for many individuals. For information regarding eligibility for a free NHS eye test, please visit www.nidirect.gov.uk/eye-care

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