Conditions we can screen for:
- Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD)
ARMD is a group of diseases characterised by the gradual breakdown of the macular (central portion of the eye) and is the most common cause of adult blindness in the UK.
About 1% of people aged 65-75, and about 12% of people aged over 85 have ARMD severe enough to cause serious visual loss. Almost twice as many women over 75 have ARMD compared with men of the same age.
Risk factors thought to increase the chance of developing ARMD include a family history of the disease, smoking, and recent studies have suggested that UVA and UVB rays from the sun can cause damage.
For more information, visit our page on Macular degeneration.
Cataracts are cloudy areas that develop in the lens of the eye. Even if you have no symptoms, screening is advised for those with a high risk of developing a cataract.
People with a strong family history of eye disease, and those who are obese, diabetic or have had a serious eye injury in the past, are more at risk of developing cataracts.
Although cataracts are largely treatable, one in four cases of sight loss in people over the age of 75 is due to cataracts.
For more information on this condition, visit our Cataracts page.
- Diabetic retinopathy
It is vital that patient with diabetes have the back of their eyes closely examined at least once a year. Diabetic retinopathy is common in people with diabetes, though more common in type 1s.
The longer a person has had diabetes, the higher the risk of developing the condition. Other risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, kidney disease caused by diabetes, poor management of blood sugars, smoking and obesity.
More information on the condition and screening is available on our Diabetic retinopathy page.
Glaucoma refers to a group of eye disorders in which the optic nerve is damaged, usually due to changes in eye pressure.
Around 2% of patients over the age of 40 have glaucoma, with 500,000 people in England and Wales having some form of the condition.
People with a family history of glaucoma, and those with shortsightedness or diabetes, are more at risk of developing this condition.
It is also thought that 50% of all cases remain undiagnosed, highlighting the need for frequent eye tests. If caught and treated early, glaucoma can be prevented.
For more information on testing for this condition, visit our Glaucoma page.
Eye screening can also detect the following conditions:
- High blood pressure (Hypertension) – signs of high blood pressure, which can cause loss of sight if the blood pressure is not treated effectively
- Neurological and nerve disorders – the eye is a complex branch of the brain and examination can help detect many underlying conditions
- Connective tissue disorders
- High cholesterol
General eye health advice
Strong evidence suggests that a good diet reduces your risk of eye diseases such as macula degeneration. Antioxidants found in certain foods can help to maintain healthy cells and tissues in the eye. Foods rich in antioxidant vitamins A, C and E include oranges, kiwi fruit, grapefruit, tomatoes, peppers, green beans, kale, spinach, raw carrot, dried apricots, nuts, seeds and eggs.
Studies have found that being overweight can double the risk of developing cataracts and may increase the risk of developing ARMD. Obesity also increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and therefore diabetic retinopathy, and can increase the speed of progression of diseases such as macular degeneration.
Research has shown that exercise may reduce the risk of sight loss brought about from high blood pressure, diabetes and narrowing of the arteries.
Smoking causes harm to eye tissues and can double a person’s risk of sight loss. Conditions such as ARMD are twice as likely to occur and will develop earlier in smokers than non-smokers, but stopping smoking reduces this risk. Smoking has also been linked to cataract development and the worsening of diabetic retinopathy.
UVA and UVB rays from the sun are understood to be factors in a number of eye conditions, such as cataracts. To protect against this damage, it is a good idea to check if your prescription glasses or contact lenses have built in UV protection. Most glasses and contact lenses made nowadays should already include UV protection. When buying sunglasses, you should check that they meet the British standard for UV light protection.