How a routine eye test can help Tackle Brain Tumours

24th September 2020

Routine eye checks.  When to have them, what to expect and how they help Tackle Brain Tumours.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a backlog of patients requiring eye treatment, as well as a reduced capacity for routine care. This paired with patients anxiety at returning to the opticians, means that many people are missing the optical services they need.

We know that eye tests are vital in spotting a number of illnesses and that it is incredibly important that you call your local optical practice immediately, if you do notice a change in your vision, or have any concerns about your eye health.

So, this National Eye Health Week, we chatted to The Brain Tumour Charities Optical Engagement Manager, Lorcan, to gather everything you need to know about optical health checks and help raise awareness of the importance of your routine eye tests.

My vision is fine, so why do I need an eye health check?

A sight test is a vital check on the health of your eye, both inside and out. It can detect a wide range of common eye conditions that on your own, you might not realise you have. Many of these, if found early, can be treated successfully, avoiding potential sight loss. Incredibly, 50% of sight loss is preventable if caught at the right time.

A sight test can also spot other health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and of course, more serious issues such as brain tumours. So even though you might feel fine, regular check ups really are important!

Who needs a regular sight test?

Everybody! Sight tests should be part of your regular health care routine, just like going to the dentist.

And remember children are never too young to have an eye check, even if they have no symptoms. Special tests have been devised to help optometrists examine even the youngest child. Imagine if your child has blurry vision, but it always been that way for them. They may think that this is normal and so if you were to ask them if they can they see things ok, how are they to know what they are seeing is not optimal?

How often should I have an eye test?

We would normally recommended you get your eyes checked every two years, unless advised otherwise by your optometrist. Certain groups may need their eyes checked more frequently, such as those with diabetes and people who either have Glaucoma or who have a family member who has Glaucoma.

If you are affected by a brain tumour, your optometrist may also recommend more regular check ins.

What happens during a sight test?

Sight test appointments usually last around 30 minutes. Your optometrist will tailor the examination according to your individual circumstances, taking into account your age, medical history, lifestyle, and any particular problems that you are having with your eye(s) and/or vision. Tests performed will be a check on your peripheral vision, the puff of air test for anybody over 40 years of age,  using a digital retinal camera to take a photo of the back of your eye – this is essentially like an X-Ray!

Vision checks then take place to see how good your vision is for distance and also for reading. Your optician will check how you manage both with and without your glasses, often on a letter chart on the wall in front of you. Approximately half of any eye exam is checking your vision and any prescription you may need, whilst the other half is looking at your eye health both inside and outside, to ensure there are no causes of concern.

Many people feel anxious about going to the opticians, but knowing what to expect and letting your optometrist know how you’re feeling can really help with your experience. There’s no right or wrong answers and they’re there to listen and support you.

How much does an eye test cost?

Costs vary depending where you live, but these tend to be in the region of £20. However over half the population in the UK are entitled to free sight test paid for by the NHS. And, if you regularly use a computer at work you may be entitled to get the cost of the test paid for by your employer, so it’s always worth checking!

What’s the link between eye health and brain tumours?

Around 30% of patients with a brain tumour reported a problem with their vision prior to diagnosis. Unfortunately many either go to the GP or they ignore it as they aren’t sure what to do. Opticians are specially trained to detect, refer and get treatment for patients with sight problems and so it’s vital you share your concerns with your optical professional, to ensure you get the best care and correct diagnosis.

Sight issues such as visual field loss, abnormal eye movements, double vision and sensitivity to light could all be an indication of something abnormal happening behind the scenes in your brain. These issues can of course have many causes, so don’t panic! But they can be as a direct result of a tumour, where pressure from the tumour builds up behind the eye or damages the optic nerves. So it’s always best to get any concerns checked by your local optical professional as soon as possible.

I’ve been diagnosed with a brain tumour, will my vision be affected?

Whilst 30% of individuals affected by a brain tumour do experience some visual deficiencies, how your vision is affected can differ depending on the location of your brain tumour and the treatment you are having. Some patients are completely asymptomatic, meaning their tumour has no impact on their sight, others see minimal affect and some sadly see major changes. There’s no one size fits all. If you have a brain tumour and have concerns over your eye health, it’s always best to raise this with your clinical team, who will be able to support you and refer you for further consulation if needed.

So, this National Eye Health Week, if your eye test has been postponed, your check up was due to take place when centres were closed, or you haven’t visited an opticians in a number of years, please do book in to get your eye health checked. Opticians are Covid-safe and are there to support you. Please don’t wait.