According to the Royal National Institute of Blind People, nearly 2 million people in the UK are living with sight loss – that is 1 person in 30. As the population in UK is ageing, this number is likely to go up further, with RNIB estimating this to increase to 2.25 million by 2020, and to double to 4 million by 2050. These statistics are certainly alarming, and new research is increasingly geared towards addressing this problem.
In the UK around 360,000 people are registered as blind or partially sighted. The actual numbers could be higher. Blindness can take a heavy toll on a person’s life – both on the work front as well as socially. A very small percentage of the blind receive any formal counselling or mobility training, and almost half of them feel cut off from people and things around them. Moreover only 1/3rd of the registered blind and partially sighted people (of working age) are employed.
Technological advances in microbiology and microelectronics have now created new opportunities in restoring sight. A French company Pixium Vision is testing a new technology, aptly named Iris, which holds out new hope for the blind. A technique called neuro-modulation – using electricity to stimulate the nervous system – is being used to address blindness. The procedure involves a tiny silicon chip with 150 electrodes being implanted on the retina. The patient wears dark glasses with an integrated video camera that sends images to a mini-computer, which in turn transforms the images to digital signals. These signals are then transmitted via wireless to the silicon implant, which activates the electrodes on the chip. Finally the optic nerve carries the images to the brain, enabling the patient to see. Iris is currently under pilot testing and can allow patients to see basic shapes in variations of black, white and grey. At present the resolution is too low to allow for reading or distinguishing colours and facial features. The success of Iris is very individual-specific as it relies on the brain’s adaptability, which varies from person to person. Yet, it’s a huge step towards restoring some level of sight in the blind.
Eyesight may deteriorate with age or due to lifestyle choices such as smoking, spending too much time in front of the computer, or not wearing sunglasses on a regular basis. Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness, closely followed by glaucoma, cataracts and diabetic retinopathy. It’s quite possible that you may not be aware that you have any vision problems, as the deterioration is a slow process. The best way to determine your eye health is to go for an eye examination. You can now book an eye test online with Leightons Opticians and Hearing Care. Our friendly and trained optometrists will put you at ease and conduct a thorough lifestyle evaluation before beginning with the eye test.
Our eye examinations are comprehensive and take at least 30 minutes, and employ the most advanced technology. Based on the results of your eye test, we will advise you on whether you need glasses or contact lenses, as well as explain the best eye care practices to follow. We recommend that you get an eye test done every year, so that any changes or vision deterioration can be identified and addressed at the earliest. So drop by at your nearest Leightons branch or call us on 0800 40 20 20.
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