I have been registered blind now for 21 years. I have 2 conditions that have caused the deterioration to my eye sight; these are Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) and Retinal Telangiectasia. Both of these are inherited eye conditions that I had when I was born but, due to the nature of them, they weren’t detected and diagnosed until I was 16.
As a child growing up, I thought that my sight was ‘normal’. I went through main stream schools, rode a bike, played video games (on an old Atari console for those that remember these), enjoyed playing sports and games with friends and all the other ‘normal’ things that kids did back then. I was never a strong reader but could read newspapers and magazines and I remember having extra bright lights on my bike to do my morning paper-round as I used to find riding my bike in the dark pretty difficult. Once I was diagnosed, I realised that reading and riding my bike in the dark (not together as this would have been stupid) were probably more difficult for me due to my sight conditions.
During the past 21 years, I have had many discussions with my eye consultants at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London about prevention and what I can do to slow the deterioration of my sight down. Ultimately there wasn’t anything that I could do to stop it but I was advised that the following would help:
- A Healthy Diet; this should include lots of green vegetables, oily fish (which I really don’t like) and fruit; basically anything that contains lots of vitamins
- Drinking Water – they suggested that adults should drink around 2 litres a day. Eyes require lots of water (keeping your body hydrated) to remain healthy
- Vitamin & Omega 3 Supplements – These were suggested if my diet wasn’t including them
- Avoiding High Contact Sports and G-Forces – This was to prevent any further damage being caused to my retinas; they particularly mentioned avoiding playing rugby, boxing and things like rollercoaster rides at theme parks and head banging at raves!
- Not smoking – there were/are some strong links with smoking causing or affecting sight conditions as well as it being unhealthy for you
- Wearing Sunglasses – with RP particularly, the sun can cause the sight condition to deteriorate more quickly. Wearing good quality sunglasses will help prevent unnecessary damage to the rods and cones on the retina as well as making bright days more tolerable by reducing glare.
I attend Moorfields approximately twice a year depending on whether there are any changes to my sight that have to be checked more frequently. During these examinations they check the eye pressures and my general eye health to ensure that nothing else is about to kick off.
My sight loss is due to the for mentioned conditions, however, there are some sight conditions that can occur at any time such as Glaucoma, Macular Degeneration and Cataracts. These conditions can be treated quickly if detected early and this is why everyone should have a sight test at least every 2 years.
A sight test doesn’t just check to see whether you need glasses for reading, they look for any signs of change. Usually they will take a photo of your retina and then use these photos to compare at your next visit. In addition, other conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure can be detected from a simple eye test.
I really can’t stress enough how important your sight is. My sight loss isn’t avoidable but yours could be. Please do your best to keep your eyes healthy and REMEMBER to have your eyes tested every 2 years. If you notice any changes in-between these tests go back and get them checked out; the earlier something is detected the more likely it can be treated or prevented from getting much worse.
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Vicky: Not much to add to this blog, just that both of my parents had their sight conditions diagnosed only through their routine optician check ups – my Mum found out she has AMD (Age Related Macular Degeneration) and my Dad has Glaucoma. Neither had recognised any deterioration in their sight prior to these visits but both have since had further checks, advice and treatment as well as regular monitoring. So, please do make that appointment to the opticians even if you have no need for glasses and then keep going regularly!
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