Can you see this?


EXG AUG 14 HEALTH - Credit: Archant

Ophthalmologist Mr James Sheldrick, from Colchester’s Oaks Hospital, offers his top tips for checking the condition of your eyes and looking after the valuable gift of sight

What did you see today? A beautiful sunrise, the sparkling of light dancing on the tops of waves, beautiful clouds, friends and family?

When you saw these wonders it is unlikely you gave even the smallest thought about your eyes and their perception of your environment, you were just there.

Unfortunately, even the most advanced systems can go wrong and sometimes we don’t realise this is happening. This may be because it creeps up on us slowly and we do not realise we are not seeing what we used to. Sometimes the brain and visual system just tries to compensate for defects so we do not realise they are there. Serious visual loss can occur in one eye and people may not notice until they happen to close the good eye and realise they cannot see. It seems impossible, but unfortunately it is not uncommon.

So how can we monitor our vision and what clues might we have to alert us when things go wrong?

A good starting point is to have regular checks with your optometrist who will not only check on the focusing of your eyes and any need for glasses, but will use his or her clinical skills to help detect eye problems. One of the most important checks they do is for glaucoma as this eye disease gives no symptoms and is something you cannot check for yourself. Your optometrist checks for this by measuring the eye pressure and looking at the nerves at the back of the eyes.

But visits to the optometrist are often only every year or two and a lot can change in that time, so what can you do to check your eyes and monitor your vision?

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If you are a driver it is essential you regularly check your vision to ensure you can read a number plate at the correct distance — it is important you do not know the number you are trying to read. It is also vital to check the vision of each eye individually. When you sit in your favourite chair at home or in the office, do the following checks with each eye individually. Pick an object at eye level in front of you which is constant, for example, the door of your neighbour’s house across the road. Using glasses if you need them, keep your eye fixed on the object and ask yourself the following

three questions...

1. Does the object look as clear as the last time you did the check?

2. Do all the straight edges look straight or have they developed any distortions?

3. Keeping your eye fixed on the object without looking around, can you see the same area or field of vision as your previous check?

If things do not look as clear, you may need to have your glasses checked or you may be developing cataracts. An examination by your optometrist is advised.

If you notice any distortion, that is straight lines have become wavy, then it is essential you have your eyes checked promptly to ensure you do not have the early stages of wet macular degeneration. A check with an ophthalmologist as early as possible is recommended. Current treatments for wet macular degeneration try to prevent damage and have a better chance of being effective in saving your vision if the condition is detected and treated early.

Checking the field of vision — your all round vision — enables you to detect possible retinal detachments at an early stage when treatments can be most effective.

So enjoy the gift that is vision. Value it and care for it, because it can all be gone in the blink of an eye. And, if in doubt, check it out! n

For further information or for details on how to make an appointment, please contact the Hospital Services Advisors on 01206 753245 or visit

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