19 – 25 September 2016 is National Eye Health Week. This is a campaign that is dedicated to promoting the importance of eye health and visiting your optician for check-ups. We all know that we should have regular eye tests, but why is this?

The obvious reason to have an eye test is to investigate any difficulties that you may be having with your vision – whether this is struggling to read the newspaper, seeing your computer screen, or reading road signs when driving. If the optician finds that you have a problem with your sight, he or she may prescribe glasses to correct this. However, eye checks can also be vital when it comes to spotting signs of other diseases.

Researchers at University College London (UCL) have recently discovered that it may be possible to detect the early signs of Parkinson’s Disease from a simple eye test. Parkinson’s is a degenerative neurological disease that affects 1 in 500 people. Sufferers usually develop symptoms that include tremors, muscle stiffness and difficulties moving, which are caused by damage to the brain cells. These symptoms worsen over time, gradually reducing the individual’s quality of life.

Until now, scientists have not been able to find a test that can detect early changes in the brain that could be indicative of Parkinson’s. Current tests can only pick up the disease once the brain cells have suffered considerable damage. However, if the changes could be picked up sooner, it is possible that prompt treatment could slow down the progression of the disease.

It is likely that more research will need to be done, but this is an exciting development that has been described as a "potentially revolutionary breakthrough in the early diagnosis and treatment of one of the world's most debilitating diseases" by Professor Francesca Cordeiro, who led the study at UCL. The charity, Parkinson’s UK, has also welcomed the findings, describing them as a “significant step”.

Other conditions that can be picked up during a routine eye test include diabetes, high cholesterol, thyroid disease and, more seriously, cancers and tumours in the eyes, neck and brain.

Early detection can often be crucial to obtaining the best chance of treating these conditions and so your optician should be on the lookout for any signs of disease in your eyes, even if you are not having any noticeable problems.

If you are concerned that your optician may have missed the signs of disease in you, a friend, or a family member, please do not hesitate to contact us for a free, confidential discussion about your options.