Actress Sophie Thompson is working with Specsavers to highlight the importance of regular eye tests this National Eye Health Week (September 23-29).
It’s an issue close to Sophie’s heart after her grandmother and mum were diagnosed with glaucoma.
Sophie’s said she’s pleased that National Eye Health Week helps put a spotlight on the need for everyone to take care of their eyes as well as highlighting the conditions that could easily be preventable through regular checks.
‘I know first-hand the impact that impaired vision can have on people, which is why I hope to help raise awareness of eye checks. It’s just so important that people take their eye health seriously.’
Glaucoma now affects more than 700,000 people across the UK and 64 million people globally.
The TV, theatre and film actress now gets her eyes tested regularly to monitor for the condition. ‘There’s a history of glaucoma in my family, my mother and grandmother both had the condition, so [I now know] it’s important that I’m vigilant.
‘My gran’s sight got progressively worse, and became very restricted. Luckily, mum’s glaucoma was detected much earlier, which means she can manage it with eye drops three times a day. Had it not been caught when it was, it could have been a very different story. That’s why me and my sister Emma always make sure we get our eyes checked regularly.’
Dr Nigel Best, optometrist and Specsavers clinical spokesperson gives advice about glaucoma to consumers: ‘There are several factors which can increase the risk of developing glaucoma. As in Sophie’s case, a family history of the disease increases the chances, but other risk factors include those who have black-African or Asian heritage as well as those who have higher levels of short sightedness. Of course, age also needs to be considered as two in every 100 people over the age of 40 are affected with the condition.
‘The good news is glaucoma can generally be treated effectively if detected early, and in most cases, daily eye drops are used.’
As a result Sophie has her eyes monitored with an Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) machine. This cutting-edge piece of equipment – usually found in hospital eye departments is available in more than half of Specsavers stores – it’s used for a variety of functions including screening and management of conditions such as age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.
Karen Osborn Chief Executive of the International Glaucoma Association (IGA) says: ‘We regularly hear from people who have permanently lost sight to glaucoma because of late diagnosis. People are often angry and upset to learn that simple regular visits to their local high street optometrist could have detected the condition. The earlier treatment starts, the more likely that someone will retain useful sight for life.’
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