Taking care of your eyesight

Good eyesight is precious but can often deteriorate with age. Here you will find information on how you can take care of your eyesight.

It is important to have your eyesight checked by an optician regularly, at least once every two years, to screen for eye conditions such as cataract, glaucoma and diabetic eye disease. If you need glasses to improve your eyesight, the optician will also work out the lens prescription you require.

There are a number of eye conditions associated with older age, that are preventable or easily treated if detected in time. The most common of these are cataract, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. If you are concerned about your eyesight or about eye conditions, you should visit your Family Doctor or GP, who may arrange a visit to an eye specialist, a Consultant Opthalmologist.

A cataract is cloudiness on the lens of the eye which blocks light and causes a loss of vision. It can develop as a result of wear and tear on the lens of the eye, which is often associated with aging and may progress over several months or develop more slowly over many years. The cataract usually happens in one eye and may occur in the other later.

Sometimes a change of eyeglasses may be sufficient. If the condition is interfering with daily activities such as driving, reading or watching television surgery may be required. A cataract operation is a common procedure which is often performed as day surgery, so you may not need to stay in hospital overnight.

Before you are discharged from hospital, staff will discuss with you any other precautions you might need to take, but it is usually possible to return immediately to normal activities, like walking for example.

Glaucoma is caused by pressure building up inside your eyeball. This damages the optic nerve (nerve of sight) and causes a loss of vision. The condition slowly destroys your peripheral (off centre) vision, which you might not even notice. 

But, if it is not treated early on, the loss could spread gradually to include the whole field of vision and may eventually cause blindness.

People at risk of chronic glaucoma include:

·        Aged over 40
·        Have a close relative who had chronic glaucoma
·        Have diabetes
·        Are very short sighted.

Medicated eye drops usually control chronic glaucoma. It is important to use the eye drops as recommended to prevent any further loss of vision.

Diabetic Retinopathy
This condition occurs when diabetes damages the tiny blood vessels in your retina.  Damaged blood vessels leak fluid onto the part of the eye that enables you to see detail.  This can cause swelling and blurring of your vision.  If the condition is left untreated it can cause blindness.

If you are diabetic, it is important that you have regular eye examinations to detect and treat any changes in the retina.

Most sight loss from diabetic retinopathy is preventable, but it is vital that it is diagnosed early on.  You might not realise that there is anything wrong with your eyesight, so it is important to have regular checks. 

Laser treatment can be used to treat diabetic retinopathy.


HSE ophthalmic (eye) services
The HSE provides an eye testing service to Medical Card holders, known as the Community Ophthalmic Services Scheme.

This service offers free eye examination and glasses if required.  If you are a Medical Card holder and are concerned about your eyesight, contact your Local Health Centre to make an appointment with the ophthalmic optician.

If you do not hold a Medical Card, you may be eligible for optical benefit under the Treatment Benefit Scheme, which is operated by the Department of Social and Family Affairs.  Contact the Treatment Benefits Section on the number below.


Department of Social and Family Affairs
Treatments Benefit Section
LoCall: 1890 400 400

National Council for the Blind of Ireland
Tel: 01-8307033 or email: info@ncbi.ie Website: www.ncbi.ie

HSE National Information Line
Monday to Saturday, 8am-8pm
Call Save: 1850 24 1850
Email: info@hse.ie

Citizen’s Information Centres
LoCall: 1890 777 121
Website: www.citizensinformation.ie
Free and confidential service