A young boy is lucky to be alive after a life-threatening brain condition he suffered with was discovered during an eye test.
Alfie Barney, eight, from Derbyshire started suffering with headaches, which were put down to him feeling nervous about going back to school.
His mum, Catherine, decided to take Alfie for an eye test after noticing he had also developed a squint in one of his eyes.
It was during his eye test that optician Adnan Nawaz noticed something was wrong and told the family they should make an urgent trip to A&E, where Alfie was soon diagnosed with bilateral papilloedema.
The condition is caused by increased pressure around the brain and can cause sight loss or serious changes to vision, and in the worst circumstances it can be fatal.
Alfie's mum, Catherine, also noticed her son had developed a squint
Alfie was one of the lucky ones to be diagnosed with the condition as he has made a full recovery since undergoing lumbar puncture treatment.
Lesley Grocock, 53, from Nottingham also narrowly avoided losing her sight after being struck by problems.
Lesley thought the fact she was experiencing black dots in her vision was down to her age but it was actually a retinal tear in her eye.
She said: "I'm always rushing around and just hadn't found the time to make an opticians appointment.
"As it turns out, if I'd left just a couple of weeks longer, I could have lost the sight in my eye – it doesn't bear thinking about."
Lesley underwent an operation the next day to repair the tear with three stitches and the insertion of a silicone rubber implant, followed by a second procedure six weeks later to remove the silicone, as well as a cataract that had formed.
State of the UK’s Eye Health 2021 report, commissioned by Specsavers in collaboration with leading eye health experts and charities, there have been 4.3 million fewer eye tests in 2020 – a 23 per cent drop compared to the previous 12 months.
A further 235,000 eye hospital appointments were missed or delayed throughout the pandemic.
As a result, eye health experts are predicting a significant rise in vision loss and other health conditions in the months and years ahead.
According to the report, almost 3,000 people (2,986) are estimated to have already lost their vision due to delayed identification and treatment of eye disease during the pandemic.
The number of people getting eye tests has decreased
And the number of people being referred with suspected glaucoma – known as the ‘silent thief of sight’ – fell by 43,000 during March to December 2020, of which 2,600 would have been for urgent treatment.
The State of the UK’s Eye Health 2021 report is estimating a three-year wait to clear the backlog of missed appointments, which could result in an additional wait of 57.2 million days for eye surgery.
It is also predicted that the pandemic will add an extra £2.5 million to cost of UK sight loss and blindness between 2021 and 2024, in addition to an existing annual approximation of £36 million.
Specsavers also conducted research of 5,000 adults that found 15 per cent have delayed having an eye test through a fear of being told that they might have a more serious condition.
Over 200,000 eye hospital appointments were missed or delayed because of the pandemic
Prices of eye tests also put people off having them, the report found.
27 per cent of people said they delayed booking an eye test, despite 16 per cent admitting that headaches or migraines have impacted their vision since the beginning of the pandemic.
Giles Edmonds, Specsavers clinical services director, said: “Such stories really do put it into perspective that whenever you experience any changes to your vision or have continuous symptoms, you need to see an optician.
“A lot of people have no idea that such health issues can be identified through an eye test.
“Thankfully, in Alfie’s case, it was a happy ending, but this might not be so with others who ignore symptoms through fear of what that could mean for their health.
“Ahead of National Eye Health Week this month, I urge people to book their eye tests.
“They’re usually quick and straightforward, while also giving you the peace of mind that you don’t have underlying issues that could lead to any number of health issues.”
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