If 2020 isn’t the Year of the Eye it certainly should be. But looking after your eyes isn’t just about focusing on vision – it’s about looking after your overall eye health too. Thanks to Specsavers’ investment in new technology, the trusted eyecare specialist can look deeper into your eyes than ever before. This allows for early identification of a range of often symptomless eye conditions that, if detected, are easily treated but, if not, run the risk of developing significant damage.
Its new in-store optical coherence tomography (OCT) equipment provides a quick and painless way to help detect treatable eye conditions – such as diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration – much sooner than was previously possible. In fact, it can detect some conditions up to 4 years in advance.
OCT scans take just a few seconds and allow an optician to look deep into the structure of each eye. An OCT scan uses light to instantly take more than 1,000 images of the back of your eye and beyond, right back to the optic nerve. It then creates an invaluable cross-section image.
To give an idea of just how powerful this equipment is, an OCT scan can help detect glaucoma years before any vision loss occurs. Glaucoma is a condition that can creep up without the sufferer being aware of any signs or symptoms. For many people it is caused by a painless rise in pressure inside the eye.
This rise in pressure can cause gradual but irreversible damage to nerve fibres and may lead to tunnel vision if left untreated. Fortunately, there are treatment options for glaucoma, but the earlier it’s picked up the better.
Specsavers can offer a level of diagnostic capability that would previously have required a hospital visit
Early detection means that treatment with prescribed eye drops, laser treatment or surgery can be started before you experience any significant sight loss – and an OCT scan is a key way to help detect those early changes.
The best way to imagine an OCT scan image is like a cake. Instead of just seeing the top of the cake and the icing – your eye – the image from the scanner slices the cake in half and turns it on its side, so that the optician can see all the layers inside. It allows for an incredibly accurate picture of your overall eye health.
Nearly half of all sight loss is preventable, and an OCT scan means a range of conditions can be managed before they get worse, to help prevent potential sight loss. Thanks to these machines Specsavers can offer a level of diagnostic capability that would previously have required a hospital visit – right on your local high street.
What’s more, your OCT image will be stored to note changes over time – a real benefit for the management of overall eye health. Customers can opt for the OCT scan in addition to a normal in-store eye test. You simply request it when you book an appointment online or when you arrive in store.
Optical Coherence Tomography scans
The advent of OCT machines has been a major boon, says Noel Meehan, director of Specsavers in Galway’s Eyre Square and in Headford Road, who says public recognition of the importance of eye health has undergone a transformation since he opened his first Specsavers store in 1991.
“There is much greater awareness of the importance of getting eyes tested, with demand also having grown because of the quality of the eye wear, the advantages of contact lenses and innovations such as disposable contact lenses. People are more aware of health generally, and eyes are an integral part of that,” he says.
"An eye test can flag up a range of issues, including high blood pressure or diabetes."
Meehan has had an OCT machine in-store for three years and offers it to everybody over the age of 25 as part of an enhanced eye test.
“Before, we used to take a photo of the back of the eye. The OCT scan is the most advanced way to scan the layers of your retina, and produces a 3D image similar to an ultrasound scan. It allows the optometrist to see the microscopic layers of the retina. We do it at the point of the pre-test, it takes three minutes and is totally non-invasive, it doesn’t even require eye drops,” he explains.
The OCT machine has been a game-changer both for us and for patients
All Specsavers stores have a qualified optometrist and a qualified dispensing optician, he says.
Standard eye tests are free if you are a PRSI or medical card holder. If you don’t fall under either of those categories, an eye test is €30 and the enhanced eye test, including the OCT scanner, costs an additional €15.
Meehan recommends that everybody 25 years of age and over should get an OCT scan first to establish a base line and then every 18 months to two years thereafter to maintain optimum eye health. Where an issue is detected the person is referred to an opthalmologist, a specialist eye doctor.
“The OCT machine has been a game-changer both for us and for patients,” says Meehan. That matters, because of course every year is the Year of the Eye.