Sunday 23 November 2014

Sight-loss myths hurt chances of preventing blindness

Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent

Published 29/01/2013 | 05:00

ONE in three people wrongly believes nothing can be done to prevent sight loss – but early diagnosis and treatment can help over half those at risk of blindness.

Around a quarter of families are affected by sight loss and mothers are twice as likely to suffer than fathers.

The figures were released by Fighting Blindness as part of a campaign to promote better eye health in women over 40.

A survey, carried out as part of the campaign, showed the majority of sight loss in Ireland is due to hereditary factors (31pc.).

The other main cause is related to age (14pc) – one in eight respondents described "old age" as being behind their sight loss.

And 2pc said it was due to age-related macular degeneration. Others cited glaucoma (4pc), cataracts (3pc), accidents (3pc) and diabetes (2pc).

Dr Patricia Quinlan, of the Irish College of Ophthalmologists, said: "People should be aware how much lifestyle is a factor for eye health.

"The message we want to get across is that over half of the causes of sight loss are preventable with early diagnosis and treatment.

"People are living longer now, so they need to look after their eyes – particularly if there is a history of eye conditions in their family.

"I would encourage the public to realise the importance of their own role in preserving the integrity of their sight.

"Simple lifestyle changes can have a big impact on your eye health. Having regular eye examinations, stopping smoking, and maintaining a healthy diet can all play a part."

She pointed to other survey findings which showed three in five people ranked reading in a low light and using flat-screen technology – TV, computers, tablets – as the two most important risks, yet neither of these activities damage your eyes.

"Looking at TVs or monitors, and reading in a low light – these activities certainly tire the eyes, but they don't cause damage," she said.

"It's a myth that they do, and clearly one that needs to be addressed, because issues like smoking, age, diabetes, and hereditary conditions have a much bigger effect."

One in five people (19pc) said they have not had an eye check for three or more years, while (4pc) have never had one. The advice is to have a check-up every two years.

A free magazine, 'VISION', which contains tips on eye health, is part of the campaign.

It is available at www.fightingblindness.ie or phone (01) 709 3050.

Irish Independent

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