Sight Loss in Older People – An Interview with Kolette Enright from ‘Eyes on the Road’

We would like to thank Kolette for her time in giving such a comprehensive interview. We hope you find the ...

We would like to thank Kolette for her time in giving such a comprehensive interview. We hope you find the information invaluable.

1. Thank you for taking the time to give this interview. Can you tell us a little about your background?

My name is Kolette Enright and I set up Eyes on the Road about 4 years ago to help people with difficulty getting to the Optician. We are based in Dungarvan, Co Waterford and cover a very wide area with our service. We aim to provide the less mobile person with the same level of access to eye care as the able-bodied person by visiting them to test their eyes, and provide spectacles if needed. We visit people in their homes, in nursing homes, day care centres hospitals etc and provide the same detailed testing that is carried out in the Opticians. This service is generally covered by the persons medical card.

2. What is the most common cause of eyesight problems in older people?

In general, as someone gets older, the main problem they will find is reading small print. This usually happens from the age of 40. With advancing years, people are more likely to suffer from cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration or visual problems associated with health issues such as high blood pressure or diabetes.

3. Is it inevitable that our eyesight will get worse as we age?

It is very unusual to come across an older person who has perfect vision for distance and reading. However, most visual problems associated with age can be corrected very easily with an up to date pair of glasses. Some people feel their vision will ‘wear out’ if they read too much but that is definitely an old wives tale!!

4. Can poor eyesight cause balance problems?

Quite possibly. If someone cannot see clearly, either because their glasses are out of date, or badly scratched, they could be bumping into things. Older people can generally be a bit unsteady on their feet: they may find their bifocals not as easy to manage as before, and could benefit from separate reading and everyday glasses instead.

5. What can I do with dry eyes?

Dry eyes can be a big problem as we get older and there is often very little that can be done to cure them. Lubricating eye drops from the chemist can often help, and they can be used as often as required.

6. Would you recommend laser eye surgery?

Laser eye surgery has been a wonderful breakthrough in modern surgery and can greatly improve someones vision. People who may have worn glasses all their life can suddenly see without them at all after successful laser treatment. However, it is highly likely they will still need reading glasses. Often after someone had cataracts removed, they may need some quick laser treatment to sharpen up the vision. This only takes a couple of minutes.

7. My eyes are itchy. What is the treatment?

Dry eyes can often lead to itchiness, as can hay fever or other allergies. In the winter, people may find sitting by the fire, or in a very warm room can cause itchy eyes also. Eye drops will help alleviate the problem.

8. Does computer use lead to eyesight problems?

The computer itself does no harm at all to your eyes, but if your vision is not correctly focussed when using it, that may cause headaches or eye strain. Sometimes a separate pair of glasses are needed, and regular breaks from the screen can also help, even if its just looking away from it every 20 minutes or so.

9. How often should older people have their eyes tested?

People are eligible for a routine eye test every 2 years under their medical card scheme, and I would advise them to avail of this. However, people with diabetes, high blood pressure or reduced vision should have a test every year. A regular eye check is important to help diagnose and treat these conditions early, as waiting until a problem is noticeable may be too late.

10. Are “floaters” serious?

Floaters are very common and often very annoying, especially on bright days or looking at a pale surface like a plain wall or the ceiling. People often describe them as cobwebs or spiders in their vision and are of no harm at all. However, if someone sees flashing of flickering lights in their vision, followed by a lot of floaters, they should get their eyes checked as a matter of urgency.

11. Are there any foods or supplements which improve eyesight?

There have been some very intensive studies done on this subject and there is a proven link between a healthy diet and good vision. ARMD, or Age Related Macular Degeneration is a serious problem affecting the central vision and there are several health supplements which slow down this progressive condition. They usually contain lutein, meso xeaxanthin or similar and are worth taking if there is a strong family history of vision problems. Carrots contain a high level of these nutrients so there is some truth in the saying that carrots make you see better.

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About ‘Eyes on the Road’ Mobile Opticians

“Eyes on the Road” provide eye care and supply of spectacles to people who may find it difficult to travel to the local Optician. We can visit you in the comfort of your own home for a full and complete eye examination, show you a selection of budget and designer frames, and deliver them back to you for adjustment and fitting. We visit hospitals, day care centres, nursing homes and private homes. This service is normally covered by a medical card.

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