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Prof. Chris Whitty promotes eyecare

Government Chief Medical Officer promotes importance of sight tests

Chief Medical Officer’s annual report 2023 on health in an ageing society highlights the importance of taking sensory loss seriously.

It adds that regular sight tests with an optometrist “ensures that any changes in vision can be detected and any eye health risks can be managed appropriately. Attending an eye test will also increase the likelihood of early diagnosis of any eye health problems”.

The documents main thrust on Vision and Hearing can be read here:

Early identification of sensory impairment, such as sight or hearing loss can enable early treatment and prevent negative impacts on older adults’ quality of life.

Sight loss

Sight loss or impairment can have a profound effect on quality of life in older age.

Visual impairment can also interact negatively with other sensory loss such as hearing or loss of balance. Many of the causes of sight loss can be slowed, prevented, reduced or in some cases reversed.

These include refractive errors (short and long sightedness), cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration and diabetic eye disease. In 1999, free sight tests were introduced for adults in England and Wales aged 60 years and over.

Those aged over 60 are entitled to an NHS sight test every two years, or more regularly if deemed clinically necessary by an ophthalmic practitioner or optometrist.37 Regular attendance at eye tests ensures that any changes in vision can be detected and any eye health risks can be managed appropriately. Attending an eye test will also increase the likelihood of early diagnosis of any eye health problems.

Hearing loss

Loss of hearing, which is often under-appreciated, can have a substantial effect on quality of life including social interaction. It is common in older age.

Several causes of hearing loss can be slowed, and the effects reversed by current technology. Hearing loss is generally slowly progressive.

Hearing tests are available on the NHS following a General Practitioner (GP) assessment and referral.

A GP may offer initial examination and advice before referring to an NHS audiologist for a full hearing assessment.

Some causes of hearing loss in older age, such as wax build-up, are entirely reversible. There is strong evidence that hearing technology, including hearing aids and (more rarely) cochlear implants, enable most people with hearing loss to stay socially active, reduce the risk of depression, and may reduce the risk of dementia.

Chief Medical Officer’s Annual Report 2023

Health in an Ageing Society

Opportunities to improve secondary prevention and early diagnosis in older age

Many secondary prevention interventions and national screening programmes are focused on older age groups, who are often at the highest risk of developing disease. They help to delay the onset of disease and prevent ill health in later life.
However, the importance of these activities can often be overlooked.

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