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Eye Health

Vision

May – Healthy Vision Month

May 8, 2019
Me with my makeup done for eye health month.

May is health vision month. A lot of people who know me and my incurable eye disease may wonder why I bother to promote eye health and urge people to go to the opticians for regular check-ups. The reason I do this is because about 75 to 80% of eye problems picked up by opticians are either curable or manageable with the correct and prompt treatment.

Snellen chart
Snellen Chart

Wet Age-related macular degeneration can be held off with regular injections to prevent vision loss over time. If glaucoma is discovered early, specific eye drops can help lower the eye pressure which in turn slows or prevents vision loss. Cataracts can be removed when vision becomes too blurry. Retinal detachment if caught in time can be reversed. A macular hole can often be repaired. Uveitis in a lot of cases can be controlled with steroids.. the list goes on. Unfortunately for me, I am just an extremely rare case where an optician’s appointment and subsequent hospital visits can’t help me, but they could for 80% of the rest of people with eye conditions. I never knew I was losing my eyesight to Stargardts disease, I hadn’t noticed my blind spots or blurring as it was just normal vision for me. Don’t leave an optician’s appointment until symptoms arise, as it may be too late then. People should be going regularly every two years to prevent any eye conditions from forming or progressing. Eye pressure can be very serious, leading to problems with your optic nerve with an increased risk of getting glaucoma, but there can be limited symptoms or symptoms that people may associate with a headache or migraine. It can only be measured by a professional who can then tell you whether your eye pressure is within normal range or not. There are several other conditions like this that may be silent and very little symptoms that you realise.

Me having my eyes checked.
Me having my eyes checked.

So many people don’t regard the opticians as necessary if they don’t feel anything is wrong, but our eyesight is so precious that nobody should be taking it for granted and should ensure that they have regular check-ups and ensure their children do too, eye conditions don’t just appear in adulthood and having regular eye checks by a professional is the only way to see right into the eye and know what your overall eye health is. 

It is important to keep up with regular eye glasses prescriptions and contact lenses for people who have correctable vision, so they maintain their optimum eye function and vision. It is also important to wear sunglasses outside to protect against UV rays, even when it is bright but cloudy, UV rays can still reach the eye.

I hope anyone reading this that hasn’t been to the opticians for a while or needs to book an appointment is reminded to, that’s all I ever want when I write these posts. If I could prevent my eyes from deteriorating, I would do it in a heartbeat 💜 .

Vision

Low Vision Awareness Month

February 22, 2019
A clock with the middle portion blurred out due to central vision loss.

February is low vision awareness month, so I thought I would do this blog post explaining some of the terms used when discussing vision loss and blindness. Whenever I tell people I have a problem with my eyes and am losing my central vision, a lot of the time I am asked how that is possible and they would never have known, because I have lovely eyes and they don’t look like there is anything wrong. When we think of blind or visually impaired, or when someone is losing their vision, we expect there to be something visible to give it away. Some people think your eyes should be cloudy, or look different in some way, but this is often not the case at all. A lot of people with vision loss can also get around quite well without the use of a cane or a guide dog, because they keep a useful portion of their vision. When my central vision depletes with Stargardts, I should still retain my side vision. In some rare cases some people can lose more vision than just the central, but I can expect to keep my peripheral, so even though I may not be able to see someone’s face who is walking up to me, I may still see the rest of their body up close and surrounding environment. The further you look out into the distance with central vision loss, the blind spots for me get bigger than when you are looking at something up close like a book, so when central vision is lost, you may not even see someone at all further away. 

I thought I would run through what some of the terms mean when people talk about vision loss and blindness, so that others can understand a little bit more on what someone can or can’t see. 

What is visual acuity and field of vision? 

6/6 vision is a term used to express normal visual acuity (the clarity or sharpness of vision) measured at a distance of 6 metres. If you have 6/6 vision, you can see clearly at 6 metres what should normally be seen at that distance. 6/60 vision is 10 times poorer than ‘normal’, i.e., the patient sees at 6m what a person with normal vision sees at 60m. 

When you go for an eye test, an optician will use a Snellen chart to determine what your best corrected visual acuity is. This will be which line you can read from on the chart. With Stargardts, the damage to the retina usually means that vision becomes uncorrectable the further the disease progresses.  

Sometimes a person can have a visual acuity of 6/6 but have blind spots in their peripheral or lack of depth perception etc which can all affect your overall visual ability. 

Your field of vision is measured by a “visual field test”. you will usually have had to have lost a large part of your visual field to be certified as severely sight impaired (blind) or visually impaired. 

The Snellen chart which is used to measure visual acuity.
The Snellen chart which is used to measure visual acuity.

Visually Impaired 

Visually impaired covers a whole spectrum of vision loss which can range from low vision through to total blindness. Some also include those who have a decreased ability to see because they do not have access to glasses or contact lenses or have something like severe light sensitivity affecting their vision. 

Low Vision

Low vision is uncorrectable vision loss that interferes with daily activities. For someone with Stargardts they may have lost all of their central vision but still have use of peripheral vision (side vision) but are unable to read, recognise faces or drive. A person classed as having moderate low vision may have a visual acuity in the range of 6/36 to 6/60 and may need visual aids in their daily life. 

Visual Aids
Visual Aids

Legally Blind

In the U.K, legally blind individuals are those whose visual acuity or sharpness (with glasses, if needed) is 6/60 or worse (the top line of the Snellen chart) and/or a visual field of 20 degrees or less.

Distorted Snellen Chart Image
Distorted Snellen Chart Image

Light Perception

Light perception is the ability to interpret the surrounding environment using light in the visible spectrum reflected by the objects in the environment. This is different from visual acuity which refers to how clearly a person sees.

Complete Blindness

Complete blindness is full lack of light perception. About 15% of the total population of the world who is blind have absolutely no light perception at all while 85% of blind people have some light perception. 

My Vision

I am so lucky to have foveal sparing at the moment. So, for me I still see at 6/9 in both eyes but have damage around the very outside of my very centre of vision that includes blind spots. This I believe, is why I never noticed I was losing my vision before my diagnosis. I am currently not classed as low vision but will find out in April if it has deteriorated and I can’t deny, I am extremely anxious about this appointment and it seems to have come around too fast. If it has deteriorated, there is nothing I can do about it anyway and I am trying my hardest to preserve what vision I have left, so I can’t do anymore. I hope this has helped people understand a bit better about the terms used when describing vision loss. 

Picture showing half of my face and one eye in black and white.
Picture showing half of my face and one eye in black and white.
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