Student Alfie Barney is fortunate enough to be alive after a life-threatening brain disease is found on a routine eye test.
Little Alfie, eight, had a headache that his parents attributed to nervousness when he returned to school.
Mama Catherine decided to take an eye test after discovering that he had developed a squint too.
But during the test at Specsavers in Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicestershire, optician Adnan Nawaz immediately noticed something was wrong and recommended Alfie be brought to an accident and emergency.
Doctors diagnosed bilateral papillary edema, a neurological disorder caused by increased pressure in the brain.
It can be fatal to some, loss of vision or serious changes in vision for others.
Thanks to the quick diagnosis, Alfie luckily underwent a lumbar puncture to relieve the swelling in his brain and has since made a full recovery.
Giles Edmonds, Clinical Services Director at Specsavers, said, “Stories like this really put into perspective the need to see an optometrist for any change in your eyesight or persistent symptoms.
“Many people have no idea that such health problems can be diagnosed through an eye test.
“Fortunately, it was a happy ending in Alfie’s case, but that may not be the case with others who ignore symptoms for fear of what it could mean for their health.”
Another who narrowly avoided losing her eyesight and career permanently is 53-year-old Lesley Grocock.
The delivery woman from Nottingham got black spots in her eyesight, which she initially attributed to aging – but in fact she had a tear in her eye.
Lesley said, “I always rush around and just didn’t have time to schedule an optician’s appointment.
“As it turns out, if I had only left it a few weeks longer, I could have lost the sight in my eye – it’s not worth thinking about.”
Lesley underwent surgery the next day to repair the tear with three stitches and a silicone rubber implant, followed by a second procedure six weeks later to remove the silicone and a cataract that had formed.
These stories reinforce the warning from experts that if they do not undergo routine eye exams, millions of people will be exposed to vision problems or even life-threatening conditions.
According to a UK State Eye Health 2021 report commissioned by Specsavers in partnership with leading eye health experts and charities, there were 4.3 million fewer eye tests in 2020 – a 23 percent decrease compared to the previous 12 months.
Another 235,000 eye clinic appointments were missed or postponed during the pandemic.
As a result, eye health experts predict a significant increase in vision loss and other health conditions over the coming months and years.
According to the report, it is estimated that nearly 3,000 people (2,986) have already lost their eyesight due to delayed detection and treatment of eye diseases during the pandemic.
And the number of people referred with suspected glaucoma – known as the “silent eyesight thief” – fell by 43,000 from March to December 2020, of whom 2,600 were for urgent care.
The UK State’s Eye Health 2021 report estimates a three-year wait to clear up the backlog of missed appointments, which could result in an additional 57.2 million days of waiting for eye surgery.
The pandemic is also forecast to add an additional £ 2.5 million to the cost of vision loss and blindness in the UK between 2021 and 2024, in addition to the existing annual estimates of around £ 36 million.
Specsavers also conducted research on 5,000 adults that found 15 percent delayed an eye test because they feared they were told they might have a more serious condition.
And more than one in ten (12 percent) said that physical education was prioritized over an eye test.
Concerns about the cost of an eye test and then glasses have led 27 percent of people to postpone booking an eye test, despite 16 percent admitting headaches or migraines have affected their eyesight since the pandemic began.
While 17 percent of those surveyed via OnePoll suspect they already have an underlying problem, they still need to see an optician.
Giles Edmonds added, “Ahead of National Eye Health Week this month, I’m encouraging people to book their eye tests.
“They’re usually quick and straightforward, while also giving you the peace of mind that you don’t have any underlying problems that could lead to a range of health problems.”
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