#BreakingBarriers to accessing eye care

This week is National Eye Health week, a time to raise awareness of the importance of good eye health.

Adults with learning disabilities are ten times more likely to suffer from serious eye conditions than the general population. This means it is even more important for anyone with a learning disability to have regular eye checks and to take preventative steps to keep eyes healthy.

For anyone with complex medical issues, eye health is often overlooked. Regardless of general health, everyone should and can have access to regular eye checks. Eye checks are used to look at eye sight, and can also be helpful in diagnosing other health issues.

Should I have an eye check?

Yes. Everyone should have an eye test every two years with an optician (eye doctor). Some people with learning disabilities might need eye checks more often.

When booking an appointment with your local optician, let them know of any adjustments needed to support you during your appointment.

If you don’t already have an optician, the helpful link below shows opticians close to where you live, and the support they can offer to someone with a learning disability.

Find your nearest optician here.

What happens during an eye test?

Here is a video that explains what happens during an eye test.

Wearing glasses

After your eye test, you may be told that you need to wear glasses. Glasses will help you to see more clearly.

Here are some top tips for wearing glasses.

If you support someone who has been prescribed glasses, this factsheet gives practical advice on how to give support and detect any potential issues.

Spotting sight issues in others

If you support someone with a learning disability, it might not always be obvious if they are having problems with their sight or eye health. Things to look out for that might signal poor eye sight:

  • Holding objects close to their face
  • Unusual head movements or shaking their head from side to side
  • Dislike of bright light, low light or both
  • Increase in falls, trips or knocks to the body
  • Requiring more support when in new environments
  • Searching for objects with their hands or knocking over items
  • Changes to the eye e.g. redness, swelling or discharge

If you spot any of these signs, it is important to book an appointment with an optician.

I’m an optician. What support can I give patients with learning disabilities?

The most important thing to remember when examining a patient with learning disabilities is to explain what you are going to do in a clear and calm manner, making sure that they are comfortable before going ahead. You may need to use hand gestures or images to support your patient’s understanding.

RNIB have shared their top tips for optometrists treating patients with learning disabilities.

Difficult words explained

When talking about eye health, some difficult words might be used. Here we explain them:

  • Optician – eye doctor
  • Optometrist – another word for eye doctor
  • Vision – how well you can see
  • Cataract – when your eye looks a bit cloudy and your eye sight becomes blurry
  • Glaucoma – a disease that affects how well you can see
  • Long-sighted – when you find it hard to see things close to you
  • Short-sighted – when you find it hard to see things far away from you