Get on your bikes and Cycle for Sight

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Cycling for Sight is a fundraising initiative that was founded five years ago by students at Bradford University to raise funds for Optometry Giving Sight. Over the past five years, the event has seen a remarkable growth in the number of participants cycling all over England to raise vital funds to help some of the world’s poorest people see their way to a brighter future.

As well as many local cycle challenges, Vision Aid Overseas and CET provider Eyecare have partnered to organise the third annual Cycling for Sight charity bike ride in the Lake District on Sunday August 28.

Participants can choose from three routes – two on the road and one mountain bike challenge. Both road routes start from Keswick, with the longer route covering 87 miles and the shorter option covering a distance of 45 miles.

The mountain biking option covers ancient woodland, steep mountain crags and lakeside bays along its 17-mile route.

All routes will depart from Keswick with staggered starts intended to get everyone back to Keswick at around the same time. The event will support World Sight Day 2016 and all funds raised through the challenge will support the Vision Aid Overseas’ projects aimed to develop the skills of the Optometry Profession in Africa. The £40 entry fee covers your evening meal, a cycling top, a goody bag, guides for the mountain bike route, vehicle support for the road ride and (for those who are opticians) that all-important CET point from a Poster Quiz at the end of the ride. Any fees left over will be donated, along with any funds you raise to Vision Aid Overseas to help fight poverty by transforming access to eye care. Last year our event raised £7000 which went directly to Optometry Giving Sights’ eye care projects overseas.

Event sponsors have been confirmed as Rodenstock, Zeiss, Topcon and Essilor. Click here  for more information on the Lake District event.

Alternatively you can take part in the Cycling for Sight Challenge 2016 anywhere in the UK by organising your own challenge, for more information visit

RNIB tackles follow-up appointment delay


Vision charity the RNIB launched an initiative to help patients get timely follow-up appointments for eye conditions during the Royal College of Ophthalmologists Annual Congress this week.

Eye care professionals were encouraged by RNIB to join forces on a new patient-self advocacy project.

The initiative, jointly run by RNIB, The Royal College of Ophthalmologists, Macular Society and International Glaucoma Association, encouraged patients to inform their eye department if their appointment is delayed beyond the timeframe requested by their doctor.

A number of new materials have been developed to help ECPs educate and inform patients.

Steve Winyard, head of policy and campaigns at RNIB, said: ‘Self-advocacy is an important skill in today’s complex and over-stretched NHS. RNIB is calling on eye departments to support the joint initiative so they can help ensure their patients are seen and reviewed based on the timeframe recommended by their clinician.

‘We are working with The Royal College of Ophthalmologists, Macular Society, and International Glaucoma Association to encourage patients to have the confidence to advocate for themselves. This is especially important where vital timely eye appointments may be cancelled or delayed by the hospital.’

Fodo calls for better use of community eye care resources



Optical body Fodo called on health commissioners to better utilise community eye care services at its annual general meeting last week.

Fodo chair Lynda Oliver said the challenges for the vision sector were well set out in the Foresight Project Report by the Optical Confederation earlier this year.

She said: ‘At Fodo, we take these challenges and opportunities with deadly seriousness. They are the harsh realities – and opportunities – of where we will be able to be of value to society in the future. And, on behalf of the sector, we are not about to let that go.

‘This will involve moving rapidly to different models of practice and to wider and higher skilled clinical roles for optometrists and opticians based on a different form of education. What was once the limited preserve of hospital optometry needs to move at scale and pace into the community, with hospital optometrists and others in the hospital eye service taking on roles that ophthalmologists currently perform.

‘It is shaming for the NHS and society when we read media headlines such as “Patients are going blind – because the NHS delays vital follow-up appointments” and to hear public pleas for help by the Royal College of Ophthalmologists – and then to see commissioners looking the other way and whistling while, all the while, resources in the community go under-utilised and, in some cases, are disparaged by medical colleagues.’

Fodo also launched the first in a series of peer discussion training resources on areas of highest risk in front-line clinical practice at the AGM.

Fodo professional advisor Professor Steve Taylor designed the first pack, on flashes, floaters and retinal detachment. He said: ‘Although actual incidents are few, a small number of missed retinal detachments is unfortunately a recurring theme in front-line practice.’

Oliver added: ‘There is plenty of CET and CPD around which is already very good and we have no desire to replicate that. Our aim is to innovate and to enhance learning.

Eyesight checks a must to help improve road safety


Drivers of all ages must ensure that they take regular eye tests to help improve road safety, says motoring organisation The Guild of Experienced Motorists (GEM).

With police having the power to require any driver to undertake an eye test in good daylight – and a maximum penalty for driving with defective sight of £1,000, three penalty points or a discretionary disqualification – GEM is calling for all drivers to follow five simple tips.

1. Take an eye test. Guidelines suggest that everyone should take one every two years until the age of 70 is best (and annually after this age). Eye tests are free for anyone aged over 60.

2. Wear glasses for driving if you have been advised to do so. If you don’t, not only are you and those around you at higher risk, but your insurance could be invalidated if you’re involved in a crash.

3. Carry a spare pair. Always ensure that you have a back-up pair of specs, especially when setting off on a long journey or when driving abroad (in some countries, it’s a legal requirement).

4. If driving at night is uncomfortable, take an eye test: this might detect a number of conditions and diseases, including cataracts, which can contribute to poor night vision.

5. If night-time glare causes discomfort, don’t wear sunglasses or tinted lenses: instead, try adjusting the height of your seat and avoid staring into the headlights of oncoming traffic.

GEM chief executive David Williams MBE said: “Our eyes are the most important sense we have when it comes to driving. Around 90% of the information we process is visual, so what we see is a fundamental element of our decision making.

Many of us take our eyesight for granted, so the tendency is to ignore eye health, and changes in our vision can be slow, so we may not notice subtle differences.

“GEM has long argued the case for compulsory regular eyesight testing for drivers of all ages.

“The present situation relies on individual drivers taking responsibility for their own eye health.

“That’s why it’s so important to get regular checks.


UK public less likely to donate eyes for transplantation than other bodyparts


fight for sight logo

Despite sight being the most valued sense fewer people would be prepared to donate their (eyes) corneas than other readily transplantable bodyparts.

Optegra Eye Health Care, has teamed up with research charity, Fight for Sight, to better understand the organ donation habits of the British public.

A survey of over 2,000 UK adults showed that 51% would donate their kidneys for transplantation or medical research, 49% their liver, 48% their heart and 47% their lungs but only 36% would donate their eyes.

Around 10 million people worldwide are blind because of damaged corneas. In the UK the NHS performs around 4,000 corneal transplants a year which rely on human organ donation.

Fight for Sight played a key role in helping to set up the UK Corneal Transplant Service in 1983. According to NHS Blood and Transplant corneal transplants are successful with 93% of transplants successful after one year. At five years, 74% are still functioning.

‘This research has explored patterns of behaviour around organ donation, and offered some fascinating insights into how adults regard their eyes. There is such importance, and sensitivity connected to eyes, and sadly this is at the cost of not being able to help others to see,’ said Rory Passmore, Managing Director for Optegra Eye Health Care. ‘With more and more people suffering eye conditions, particularly with an ageing population, it is more important than ever that we help if we can. We would really encourage people to discuss this with their families and complete a donor registration if they feel they can.’

Fight for Sight Director of Research, Dr Dolores Conroy, said: ‘There is a need for 70 corneas per week with the main indications being keratoconus in younger people and endothelial failure – Fuchs dystrophy – in older people. Fight for Sight is funding research into these conditions and we have a better understanding of the genetic cause of corneal dystrophies. With the lack of corneas available for transplants, it’s vital to have new treatments. We are developing stem cells therapies to repair the damage to the cornea, gene-replacement therapies and drugs that may be delivered as eye drops to repair faulty genes.’


Sight loss dementia link ignored, MP warns


More vision checks could have a life-changing impact for dementia sufferers an MP has claimed.

And he called on ministers to ensure sight checks were a major part of the Government’s dementia strategy.

In a Commons debate, Jim Shannon MP said that sight loss is a challenge that is ‘often overlooked’ by carers and NHS staff that support people with dementia. He called on public health minister Jane Ellison MP to confirm the Government’s eye care strategy for people with dementia.

In a speech to the House of Commons, Shannon noted that it is often assumed that someone with dementia “will not gain any benefit from sight testing and vision correction” because they no longer work, drive or read. But being able to see well can help patients remain active, he continued, and can “play an important role in supporting the well-being of a person living with dementia.”

“Good vision can greatly increase a person with dementia’s sense of independence, allowing them to continue to participate in daily tasks and activities and maintaining a good quality of life” he said, speaking a week after visiting a community optical practice with the Optical Confederation and LOCSU.

He is keen to promote the role eye health providers can play. “There is a need to raise awareness amongst people with dementia and their carers of the disruptions to vision and eye health that may be concurrent with or arise from dementia. This means emphasising the importance of regular sight tests and eye examinations.”

Sir Colin Blakemore discusses audience perceptions at Optometry Tomorrow


Hundreds of UK optometrists gathered in the Midlands last month for the College of Optometrists’ annual conference.

Premier research scientist Professor Sir Colin Blakemore reminded delegates that there is much more to vision that meets the eye during his Charter Lecture at Optometry Tomorrow in Birmingham last month. Our perception of the world is not only determined by what passes through our eyes he stressed.

‘Although you spend your lives making sure people have healthy eyes and clear retinal images, that is not enough for vision and visual perception,’ he told delegates.

The University of London professor of neuroscience and philosophy took optometrists on a visual journey through time, drawing inspiration from artists Michelangelo, Salvador Dalí and leading visual scientists.

His CET lecture at Optometry Tomorrow, entitled The Doors of Perception, explained how and where the brain pieces together visual information.

Prof Blakemore said cells in the visual cortex were actually receiving an impoverished version of the outside world before providing a subjective perception.

He outlined how the eye forms an image in the central retina for only a tiny section of the visual field at a time, along with lower resolution information from the peripheral retina. He said these images pass in a compressed form to the brain before a perceptual interpretation is made, based on a sequence of detailed snapshots acquired from fixations made through involuntary rapid saccadic jumps by the eyes.

‘The task of vision is to understand the world in terms of the retinal image, to decode it and to disambiguate it,’ added Prof Blakemore. ‘Our perception of the world cannot be directly dependent on what’s coming from our eyes. It’s informed by what’s coming from our eyes.’

He later used Michelangelo’s painting from the Sistine Chapel to demonstrate the tricks of perception – replacing the face of God with Charles Darwin without anyone noticing. This showed how looking at a given image made a permanent impression in the brain.

Meanwhile, Salvador’s Dali’s double image painting ‘Slave Market with the Disappearing Bust of Voltaire’ led him onto the subject of facial recognition.

Humans, he said, had evolved to use a different region of the brain to reprocess images of faces than for objects or moving stimuli, described as sophisticated computational differences. In addition, brain scan studies on blindfolded and blind patients had shown they were able to stimulate this area through touch alone.

Prof Blakemore summarised: ‘Sight is a combination of what our eyes detect and how our brains interpret that information. Normal vision is impossible without healthy, well-refracted eyes, but the richness of visual perception depends on the remarkable capacity of the brain to interpret and even predict signals from the eyes.

‘Vision feels easy: we just open our eyes and see the world. But, in reality, seeing is probably the most complex process performed by our brains and a wide range of visual disorders – from amblyopia to visual agnosia – are due to deficits in the central processing of vision.  Optometrists should be constantly aware of the part that the brain plays in vision and of their crucial role in the detection of central visual disorders.’



New technology helps visually impaired Facebook users



Visually impaired Facebook users can now use embedded object recognition technology to provide them with spoken text descriptions of photos.

Users of iOS devices are able to hear lists of items that are on shown in the photographs. Automatic alt text recognises objects using machine learning, which helps to build artificial intelligence by using algorithms to make predictions. The iPhone’s VoiceOver feature to reads descriptions of the photos out loud to user.

While still in its early stages, the technology can reliably identify concepts in categories including transportation (‘car,’boat,’ ‘airplane’), nature (‘snow,’ ‘ocean,’ ‘sunset’), sports (‘basketball court), and food (‘sushi’). It can also describe people (‘baby,’ ‘smiling, ‘beard’), and identify selfies.

The company said the facility was part of its mission to make the world more open and connected, following on from research conducted in conjunction with Cornell University showed that although blind people were interested in visual content on social media, they often felt frustrated and even excluded or isolated because they couldn’t fully participate in conversations centred on photos and videos.

Pollen advice from the College of Optometrists


For many, the arrival of spring marks the beginning of hay fever season, bringing the misery of eye-related symptoms.

To coincide with start of spring and summer, the College of Optometrists has produced an infographic to help sufferers identify when they are most at risk of developing symptoms of hay fever and take appropriate medication to minimise their allergy. Practitioners can also pass on valuable advice on the best medications to alleviate the most common symptoms of hay fever associated with the eyes.

The infographic, which is available on the College website, shows the peak season for each of three pollen types in a calendar. Sufferers have been urged to identify the pollen that triggers their hay fever and then consult the infographic to predict the timeframe in which they are likely to be most sensitive.

Daniel Hardiman McCartney, clinical advisor at the College of Optometrists said: ‘Often people don’t realise that using eye drops before their symptoms appear can minimise the impact of hay fever on the eyes. Using the pollen tracker and applying the recommended medication ahead of time should help prevent this from happening.

New test for early detection of eye disease

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A new eye chart test for early detection of an age-related eye disease has been developed by researchers in Auckland, Ulster and London.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an eye disease that is a leading cause of blindness in the developed world.

Researchers at the School of Optometry and Vision Science at the University of Auckland, the University of Ulster, and Moorfields Eye Hospital in London, have collaborated to develop a new eye chart test designed to be more sensittive to the early signs of AMD.

“More new treatments for AMD are becoming available, each capable of slowing the progression of the disease and allowing patients to make the most of the vision they have,” says Professor Steven Dakin, the head of the School of Optometry and Vision Science at the University of Auckland. “As such treatments cannot currently restore vision it is critical that AMD is detected early in order to produce the best outcome for patients.”

“The early signs of AMD can be subtle and may not be picked up by a traditional eye test until the condition has got quite bad,” he says.

“The design of the new charts is such that letters that are too small to read, appear to vanish,” says Professor Dakin. “This means that your score on this chart is limited not just by your ability to read the letters, but by your ability to tell they are even there.”

“AMD causes retinal cells to die and this seems to affect patients’ ability to read the letters, more than their ability to spot they are there,” he says. “These patients perform worse on the new chart even though they might still be able to read conventional eye charts.”

Professor Dakin says the new test is simple to administer and uses a task that patients are already comfortable with.

“Given that our aging population is increasingly susceptible to eye diseases like AMD and that treatments need to be administered as early in the disease as possible, tests such as this are likely to become an increasingly important tool for eye healthcare professionals,” he says.