Eye Health Q&A With Laser Eye Surgeon Professor Dan Reinstein – Part 1

This is the first of a 3-part Q&A session with Professor Dan Reinstein, about the importance of looking after your eyes.

In your opinion, do people generally take good care of their eyes?

“Unfortunately, a significant proportion of the public are not careful enough about looking after their eyes – a recent poll by ICM showed that 28% of adults are not having their eyes examined within this recommended two year timeframe. This is quite frightening, given that some eye conditions progress without the person knowing – in fact, World Health Organisation figures indicate that around 50% of people with early glaucoma are unaware that they have it!”

So why is it so important to take care of your eyes? Are there certain conditions that are preventable?

“The most important examples of eye conditions we can project against are cataracts, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and glaucoma. While it’s not possible to completely avoid these conditions, there are steps that anyone can take to reduce their risk of developing sight loss. With cataracts, one of my top tips would be to ensure that you use sunglasses to block UV rays as much as possible. There’s a misconception that the most expensive designer sunglasses will be the safest, but really the most important thing is to ensure is that your sunglasses offer the CE Marked label for UV protection.

Smoking is probably the biggest risk factor that can be changed for the prevention of macular degeneration. It may also help with the prevention of the progression of cataracts. While we all know that smoking can make your eyes dry and irritated, the most serious risk is the onset of AMD, which can cause significant loss of the central vision; a 2013 report by the College of Optometrists and the Royal College of Ophthalmologists stated that smokers are more than three times more likely to develop AMD than non-smokers.

Open-angle glaucoma (the most common type of glaucoma) often presents with no symptoms at all, and vision is usually lost from the periphery first – so may not be initially noticeable. Glaucoma is treatable, but visual damage that has already occurred cannot be repaired – which is why regular eye examinations, allowing early diagnosis, are so important. According to the World Health Organisation glaucoma is the currently the biggest cause of blindness worldwide; approximately 7 million people are blind from glaucoma – which is why it is known as ‘the silent thief of sight’. More than half the glaucoma in the UK goes undetected until it is too late to prevent damage to the vision.”

What is your top tip for people to improve their eye health?

“The main thing I’d like to get across is the importance of having regular eye examinations – even if you don’t think you have any eye problems. Everyone should be having their eyes tested at least once every two years. There are several serious eye conditions – such as glaucoma and retinal holes and tears – which often have no symptoms at all, so the importance of early detection cannot be overstated. It is also important that the eyes are dilated to examine the retina thoroughly, in a full eye examination.”