A new campaign highlighting the importance of regular eye health checks is about to be launched in Blackpool.

NHS Blackpool Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) in conjunction with Blackpool Low Vision Committee and Healthwatch Blackpool is urging local residents to look after their eye health in the ‘Don’t Lose Sight’ campaign.

It is being delivered as part of Altogether Now – a Legacy for Blackpool the unparalleled partnership between the NHS in Blackpool, Blackpool FC and Blackpool Council to coincide with National Eye Health Awareness Week which runs between Monday 22 September and Sunday 28 September.

The loss of sight can be a life-changing event impacting on the most routine things most of us take for granted on a daily basis such as getting dressed, preparing meals, or driving a car.

It can also mean personal milestones in life may not be the happy memories they should be. Seeing children grow up, take their first step and getting married, even watching your favourite football team win a trophy become bitter-sweet moments.

Regular eye health checks are extremely important, not just for correcting vision problems. An eye health check can detect many general health problems and the early signs of eye conditions such as glaucoma, before you are aware of any symptoms – many of which can be treated if found early enough.

There are a number of proactive steps people can take to look after eye health and prevent the likelihood of developing conditions such as glaucoma, macular degeneration or cataracts.

  • Give up smoking; smokers are much more likely to develop age-related macular degeneration and cataracts compared to non-smokers. For help to quit contact Blackpool Stop Smoking Service on 01253 651 570.
  • Get moving; while it might seem odd that exercise can help the eyes, it can be important. Research shows that exercise may reduce the risk of sight loss which can occur from high blood pressure, diabetes and narrowing of the arteries.
  • Eat healthily; a healthy balanced diet with a wide variety of fruit and vegetables will benefit your overall health and may help to keep the retina healthy.
  • Drink within the recommended limits; heavy alcohol consumption is associated with an increased risk of early age-related macular degeneration.
  • Protect eyes from the sun; never look at the sun directly, doing so can cause irreversible damage. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat or sunglasses can help to protect your eyes from the sun’s damaging UV rays.

People of any age can develop sight problems, but some have a higher risk of eye disease.

It is especially important to have regular eye tests if you are:

  • Above 60 years old
  • From certain ethnic groups; for example people from African-Caribbean communities are at greater risk of developing glaucoma and diabetes, and people from south Asian communities are at greater risk of developing diabetes. Diabetic retinopathy, where the retina becomes damaged, is a common complication of diabetes.
  • Someone with a learning disability
  • From a family with a history of eye disease.

Roy Fisher, Chair of NHS Blackpool CCG, is adding his own personal backing to the ‘Don’t Lose Sight’ campaign after recently being diagnosed with glaucoma.

He said: “I had been suffering from blurred vision for a few days but convinced myself it was nothing to worry about. It was my wife who encouraged me to get it checked out and I am so thankful that I did. I was lucky enough that the glaucoma was caught early enough to be treated.

“It is extremely important to have your eyes checked regularly. I was told if it had been left any longer I might not have been so lucky and my vision could have been affected long term.”

Nick Gradwell, a member of the Blackpool Low Vision Committee, lives with almost complete blindness. He said: “If you can avoid losing your sight by having a simple test, particularly if you are over 40, then why take the risk? For the last 25 years I have had a very much more difficult life than I would wish on anyone.

“These days people do not believe you have a problem if you look like you have even a little sight left, like 90 per cent of blind people. They think you are putting it on or a scrounger – even though I’ve managed to work since my sight loss and still do part-time work now.

“It takes me twice as long to do anything, even though I only get the same amount of time as a person with full vision. The impact of losing your sight on daily life should never be underestimated.  Getting to places and seeing who I am meeting is a huge difficulty.

“Even in the modern-age when you think that technology should be able to help it can often be more of a hindrance. I can’t use anything that is touch-screen operated.”

Eye health checks are quick, easy, painless and – for some people – free. Find out more about eyecare entitlement at NHS Choices on www.nhs.uk