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'Look after your Eyes' Public Health Campaign in July

24/06/2013
‘Look after your eyes’ at your local pharmacy this July – half of the sight loss in Wales is avoidable
 
 
Members of the public are being encouraged to ‘look in’ to their local pharmacy in July to discover how their health affects their eyesight, and the simple steps they can take to avoid the sight loss which currently affects around 100,000 people in Wales.
 
The “look after your eyes” campaign aims to improve public awareness of eye health and encourage people to take greater care of their eyes. The campaign will run from Monday 1 July until Wednesday 31 July in all 714 pharmacies across Wales.
 
Public Health Wales, the seven health boards, Community Pharmacy Wales, and the Royal National Institute of Blind people Cymru (RNIB Cymru) have come together for the campaign, which also has the support of Optometry Wales, and the International Glaucoma Association.
 
As part of the campaign, pharmacies will be reminding the 50,000 people who visit a pharmacy every day that around 50% of all sight loss is avoidable with early detection and treatment. They will advise people that adopting a healthier lifestyle can protect their vision – including reducing their chance of developing age related macular degeneration (AMD) by quitting smoking, and avoiding eye diseases such as Diabetic Retinopathy which are linked to obesity.
 
Pharmacists will focus especially on patients who have been diagnosed with glaucoma or ocular hypertension, and ensure they
have an NHS Medicines Use Review so they know how to use their medication correctly, including eye drops.
 
Throughout the month pharmacists will also be reminding their customers and patients that they should be having a regular sight test with an optometrist at least every two years.  They will be able to direct people who are at greater risk of eye disease to a local accredited Welsh Eye Care Scheme (WECS) optometrist for an enhanced eye examination.
 
The WECS service also provides emergency appointments for those with sudden eye problems, a primary care-based low vision service, and screening for diabetic retinopathy for everyone in Wales with diabetes.
 
Welsh Government Health and Social Care Minister, Mark Drakeford, will officially launch the campaign on Thursday 4 July in Boots, Queen Street, Cardiff. This city centre Boots includes a community pharmacy and opticians, illustrating the two healthcare professions working together for patient care.
 
Chair of Public Health Wales, Professor Sir Mansel Aylward CB, said: “There are nearly 100,000 people in Wales living with sight loss, and this figure is expected to double over the next 25 years. Sight loss can have a massive and detrimental impact on a person’s quality of life, which is extremely sad because around half of all cases of sight loss can be prevented with early diagnosis and treatment.
 
“Regular sight tests and education around the importance of good eye health is a priority for public health professionals. This is why we are working together to encourage people to get down to their local community pharmacy in July to discover the simple steps to avoid sight loss.”
 
Russell Goodway, Chief Executive of Community Pharmacy Wales, said: “Community pharmacies are the most accessible part of the NHS family and are ideally placed in high streets, town centres and villages around Wales to be giving advice on how various health conditions can also affect eye sight. 
 
“For the whole of the month of July, all 714 pharmacies across Wales will be advising people to Look After Their Eyes. This will range from people who are already on medication for ocular hypertension or have had cataracts removed in hospital, to people coming in to buy sunglasses to protect their eyes from the summer sun. Where relevant, pharmacists will be recommending patients to go and see a local optometrist, and we are pleased to have this opportunity to work directly with other healthcare professionals in the high street.“
 
Ceri Jackson, Director of RNIB Cymru, said: “Sight is the sense people fear losing most, and yet many people don’t know how to maintain good eye health. Just like with many other aspects of physical health – from looking after your teeth to looking after your heart – there are simple steps that people can take to look after their eyes. The single most important thing that everyone can do is to go for a regular sight test. Beyond that, a healthy diet, exercise, not smoking, and protecting your eyes from the sun are all important in helping reduce your risk of sight loss.
 
“The local pharmacy is an important source of health information and advice, so we are delighted to be working with them on this campaign. We hope that it will help many more people understand the importance of good eye health and start taking more pro-active steps to reduce their risk of sight loss.”
 
The five leading causes of sight loss in the UK are cataracts, glaucoma, wet age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, and refractive error.
 
A major contributor to sight loss is smoking as well as passive smoking. Community pharmacies provide NHS, as well as over-the-counter, support for people trying to quit smoking and this will be a key part of this campaign. For advice on giving up smoking, call Stop Smoking Wales on 0800 085 2219, or visit www.stopsmokingwales.com.
 
For more information on sight loss, please visit the Public Health Wales eye health web pages. 
 
You can also visit the RNIB Cymru website at www.rnib.org.uk/cymru or contact the helpline on 0303 123 9999.
 
 
 
 
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