A trip to the optician proved to be a sight saver for a man from Newry. Sean Smyth, a 63-year-old social worker, noticed that the vision in his left eye was blurred.

He explained: ‘I didn’t regularly get my eyes tested but we’d had a leaflet through the door from Specsavers offering a free eye test so I thought I should go in.

While my eyes were being tested by Catherine McKinney, the optometrist, it was obvious that she had spotted something potentially serious, but the way it was dealt with was extremely professional and really put me at ease that I was in good hands.

I was taken into a private office and told that they wanted to get a hospital appointment for me as quickly as possible.’

Bleed threatened sight

Sean added: ‘I’d had a bleed at the back of my eye, with a condition called vein occlusion, and I needed pretty urgent treatment as I had lost the vision in the centre of my eye and the macula had become distorted.

If Specsavers hadn’t highlighted the seriousness of the condition and pushed for a hospital appointment the bleed would have continued, my retina could have detached and I could have lost my sight completely.’ 

Catherine explained: ‘Vein occlusion is where the vein becomes completely blocked, blood spills out and the sight becomes threatened. It can be caused by a range of health issues such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes or raised intraocular pressure.’

Eye tests vital

Catherine added: ‘I think the clear message is that getting your eyes checked is not just about whether you need to wear glasses but about your general health too.

We quite often pick up on wider health issues, particularly in the over 50 age group, so we’d encourage everyone to have an eye test at least every two years.’

The good news is that following a steroid implant Sean’s sight has almost completely returned although he will need continued check-ups and treatment to manage the condition.

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