How can I find out more about my eye condition?
Frequently asked questions for people who have been advised that they have a sight impairment include:
- Will my sight get worse?
- Is there a cure?
- Who else has got this problem?
- What exactly does my eye condition involve?
- Is there any way I can learn to adapt?
These are common questions for people who have been told there is something wrong with their eyes. Sight loss is a very individual impairment and you will need to consult your eye specialist for information about your specific eye condition. However, only a very small percentage of those people who are registered blind actually have no sight, most people retain some useful vision. If you want to know more – and perhaps the answers to these questions – then the first thing you need to find out is the name of your eye condition.
Normally a specialist eye doctor – known as an ophthalmologist – should diagnose your particular eye problem and tell you what is wrong. If you haven’t seen an ophthalmologist yet, ask your own doctor (GP) if he will refer you to one.
Once you have the name of your particular eye condition, it is much easier to find out more. Asking your own doctor or eye specialist is a good starting point, but if you want more detailed information, the internet is an especially rich source of useful information. Some of this is provided by doctors or eye hospitals: other information can be found from people with the same or similar eye conditions as yourself. The Fight for Sight website contains information on a range of eye conditions and current research into eye conditions. Visit our Useful Links page where you can find details for local and national organisations’ websites.
Further information about your eye condition may be available through the RNIB, available either direct from the RNIB, from one of the MAB’s MidSight Hospital Information points or through MAB’s Resource Centres. Further information on accessing these MAB services can be found under Key Services on this website.
What do the different Health Professionals do?
There is a bewildering array of medical jargon including the different types of eye specialists you may come into contact with. To help you to understand the role they play in the diagnosis and care of your sight condition we have provided brief descriptions of their areas of expertise:
An optometrist is a person who examines eyes to see if spectacles will improve vision. He or she can measure the visual acuity and pressure within the eye. By using specialised equipment an optometrist can perform a full examination of all the different parts of the eye. Some optometrists may also recommend and prescribe drops to treat eye conditions. Optometrists write a spectacle prescription that is given to the patient and passed on to the optician.
An optician is a person who makes spectacles based on a prescription. He or she can decide on the best type of lens and spectacle frame to suit the individual. Optometrists and opticians often work together.
An orthoptist is a person who assesses vision and eye movements. They use methods of assessing vision that are most suitable for young children. They can assess squints and patients complaining of double vision. They usually work in eye clinics with ophthalmologists.
An ophthalmologist is a person who has qualified as a doctor and specialised in the diagnosis and treatment of eye conditions. They can prescribe spectacles and drugs. Most ophthalmologists will perform surgery although they may specialise in different types of surgery.
What do I tell my family?
Often, when people discover that they have a serious eye condition, they can experience a range of emotions. The support of family and friends is essential to help in getting though this time. So it is important that you tell your family the full facts as you understand them, it does not help your family to hide the truth from them and leaves them unable to provide you the support that you need. You and your family may experience all sorts of feelings, including loss, grief, fear and denial but it is always easier to share these feelings together than alone. It is important to realise that you are not alone in experiencing your condition. Remember others have also experienced your condition, so there is much support and experience already available to call on. You may find the support of others that understand the nature of your condition to be of some comfort to you.
Will new glasses help?
You will need to visit an optometrist (an opthalmic optician) to answer this. Find an optometrist who specialises in low vision – the professional term for those with seriously impaired sight. Should you choose to become registered, you are entitled to a free eye test every year. It is important to continue with these examinations to detect any changes in the health of your eyes. Tests can also indicate if different glasses are needed.
The optometrist will also be able to advise about other assistive aids, such as magnifiers and special glasses that may help you. There are often low vision clinics at eye hospitals, where specialist devices may be issued free of charge: ask your GP or eye doctor to refer you. Some high street opticians also specialise in low vision, but their services may not be covered by NHS funding.
Further information on institutions offering Low Vision Services can be found through the RNIB’s Sightline Directory service for Low Vision Services in London.
Why can I sometimes see better than at other times?
Different situations may have a large effect on what you can see. In addition, your specific eye condition, different levels of light, the effects of medication and tiredness, illness and stress are all factors that influence your effective vision.
Further information on improving your vision, for example, while reading, for safety at home or when using stairs, can be obtained through your local social services rehabilitation worker. You can also minimise the effects of glare – your local low vision clinic or optometrist (optician) should be able to advise. Local MAB staff may also be able to advise you regarding how best to equip yourself within the home, while our resource centres provide an opportunity to try out equipment before ordering.
Have I done something to cause this?
It is highly unlikely that you have done anything to affect your sight loss. There are many common myths surrounding loss of sight, from the sublime, e.g. reading too much, to the ridiculous, e.g. not eating enough carrots. As is the case with most common myths, no evidence has been found to substantiate any such causes.