At the end of March, the issue of eye health was discussed in parliament - for the first time in nearly seven years.
Led by Wealden MP Nusrat Ghani, a parliamentary blind spot was addressed in a 90-minute debate in the House of Commons Chamber. Ms Ghani called for the government to develop and implement a national eye health strategy in England as eye care had only been discussed for a minuscule 12 minutes in parliament way back in 2010.
“Eye health must be seen as a public health priority rather than in isolation from wider health and wellbeing issues.”
During the discussion, Ghani did not hesitate to remind parliament that there are already equivalent strategies in place for other issues like hearing loss and dementia and that all the other countries in the United Kingdom, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, already have eye care strategies in place. Ghani chairs on all party parliamentary groups on eye health and vision-impairment.
MPs highlighted patient waiting times, variations of local commissioning and a cap on drug expenditure as some of the causes of preventable sight loss in the UK. Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health, David Mowat, offered to meet with Ms Ghani and the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) to discuss points raised during the debate.
Commenting on the 90-minute debate was the Macular Society, who brought to light the shocking figure that the topic had not seen any discussion since 2010.
Age-related macular degeneration:
Following on from the Macular Society's comment is the topic of age-related macular degeneration. The macula is part of the retina at the back of the eye. It is only about 5mm across but is responsible for all of our central vision, most of our colour vision and the fine detail of what we see.
There are many forms of macular conditions, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most common. Other common macular conditions include myopic maculopathy, macular holes, diabetic macular oedema and retinal vein occlusion.
AMD usually affects people over 60 and is the most common cause of sight loss in the developed world - over 600,000 people in the UK alone are affected. There are two types of AMD – “wet” or neovascular and “dry” or atrophic. It does not cause complete blindness, only central blindness. It spares the peripheral vision (around the edges), leaving only dim images or black holes at the centre of vision. Age-related macular degeneration affects the vision you use when you’re looking directly at something, for example when you’re reading, looking at photos or watching television.
The symptoms to watch out for include:
- Noticing any difficulty reading small print, even with glasses
- Straight lines begin to look wavy and/or distorted
- Unclear vision
If you start to experience any of these problems have your eyes tested as soon as possible by an optometrist.
It’s great to see that ocular health has finally made its way back into the House of Commons Chamber, and at Focus we can’t wait to see what the future has in store for eye health and care.
You can view the full debate here.