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Sight loss and eye care

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Many of us experience a slow deterioration in our eyesight as we get older; this can be frustrating but there are steps which you can take to protect your eyesight, and to overcome any difficulties which you encounter.

Some people experience a much more significant loss of sight, either from birth or at some point during their lives. Living without full sight, or with no sight at all, can be a frightening and frustrating experience, which can leave you feeling disconnected from the world around you, and mean that you encounter significant obstacles to leading a full and active life.

However there are many devices and services to support you, to help ensure that your living environment better suited to your needs, and to help to keep you connected with the rest of the world. 

A slow deterioration in sight may seem inevitable for many of us as we get older, but need not always be restricting. If you have any concerns about your eye sight, or feel that your sight has deteriorated, you should always consult your GP or an optician. 

Your local NHS has a list of opticians who offer NHS services and details of opticians who can visit you if you cannot get out.

We cannot recommend particular opticians but the following opticians may visit you at home depending on where you live:-

Older people, people who are registered blind or partially-sighted, people with certain medical diagnoses, and people in receipt of certain state benefits are among those who are entitled to free NHS eye tests. To apply, call the Benefits Helpline on  0800 220 674 and request form HC1.

It's a good idea to have a check-up with your optician every year. 

More serious loss of sight can happen as the result of accidents, or from a variety of medical conditions. The most common conditions are:

Macular degeneration

Macular degeneration is an eye condition that can affect older adults and results in a loss of vision in the centre of the visual field. It can make it difficult, or sometimes impossible, to read or recognise faces, although enough peripheral vision remains to allow other activities of daily life. It affects people in different ways and at different rates.

For more information contact the Macular Society, or go to the NHS website or the RNIB website.

Glaucoma

Glaucoma affects about two out of every 100 people in the UK who are over 40. It's important to have your eyes tested regularly. If left untreated it can cause blindness. However if it's diagnosed and treated early enough, damage to your vision can be prevented.

For more information visit the glaucoma pages on the NHS website or go to the RNIB site

Cataracts

A cataract is a clouding of part of the eye - vision becomes blurred because the cataract is like a frosted glass. Many people over 60 have some cataract and the vast majority can be treated successfully.

There is more information about cataracts on the RNIB website and the NHS website.

Diabetic retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is a common complication of diabetes. It occurs when high blood sugar levels damage the cells at the back of the eye, known as the retina. If it is not treated it can lead to blindness.

There is more information about diabetic retinopathy on the RNIB website and the NHS website.

Retinitis pigmentosa (RP)

Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is the name given to a diverse group of inherited eye disorders. These eye conditions affect a part of your eye called the retina. RP causes permanent changes to your vision but how quickly this happens and how it changes differs between people. These changes may include difficulty with vision in dim light or the dark, and the loss of your side or peripheral vision

For more information on RP go to the RNIB website

You can go to our separate page on Support with sight loss for information on how to manage your sight loss, and on support that may be available to you.

The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) is the leading charity in the UK offering information, support and advice to almost two million people with sight loss.
The provide information on a wide range of issues under the heading Information for everyday living.

The Thomas Pocklington Trust provide specialist housing for people with visual impairments, and also provide advice, both online and in booklets, on adapting your current home and living with a sight impairment.

The Macular Society provide advice and support for people with macular conditions, including age-related macular degeneration (AMD)

Blind Aid provide various support services to blind people and people with visual impairments living in London.

BBC Radio 4's In Touch programme offers news and information for blind and partially sighted people. Search for 'In Touch' on the BBC Radio home page from where you can listen to every edition of the programme which has ever been broadcast.

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Seeability provide specialist support and advice on sight problems and eye care for people with physical, mental or learning disabilities - they have produced a range of easy-read fact sheets.

The Easy Health website has gathered together various videos and easy-read leaflets which will help people with learning disabilities to understand more about their eyes, and about problems with sight loss.