talkhealth meets... Mr Vik Sharma
Did you know that around 6 million people are living with sight-threatening eye conditions? And, that’s only in the UK! Thanks to the increase in our screentime, an ageing population and more stressful lifestyles, more and more of us are boasting spectacles than ever before.
With that in mind, we are inviting ophthalmologist expert, Mr Vik Sharma, to host a webinar all about maintaining great eye health in the modern world! As a specialist in glaucoma and cataracts, he is a fountain of knowledge when it comes to common eye problems.
Before his webinar, we asked him some questions about why he is passionate about eye health and some of the best ways that we can look after our eyes.
How did you come to specialise in ophthalmology? What makes you particularly interested in eyes?
Ophthalmology is in my blood. My father was an eye surgeon at Western Eye Hospital in London which is part of the Imperial College Healthcare Trust. He’s retired now but I always enjoyed the stories he’d tell about his time at work. I was fascinated by the power he had to fix people’s vision and I loved learning about how grateful his patients were for it.
Why is good eye health so important throughout our lives?
Being able to see is our most important sense so we should look after our eyes and maintain their health. There is a direct correlation between how good our quality of life is and how good our vision is. Even a slight deterioration in your eye health can massively affect your wellbeing.
Have pressures on ophthalmology services increased due to the ageing population? How have you adapted to this?
Yes, the pressure on our services has certainly increased because of the growing number of people in the UK who are aged over 65. In fact, this age group makes up around 19% of the entire population! We have partnered with allied health professionals and the public to try and get an efficient and effective service for all of our patients.
What is glaucoma? Who is more likely to be affected by this condition?
Glaucoma is a common eye condition that is the second leading cause of blindness in the world. It happens when the optic nerve that connects the eye to the brain becomes damaged. This occurs for lots of reasons including trauma to the eye or nearsightedness. Family history of the condition also increases your risk along with other eye conditions like myopia or diabetes. Age is also a key factor so anyone over the age of 40 should have an annual check.
How have eye treatments advanced in recent years?
Technology has developed loads which has helped both us and our patients with eye care. New technology allows us to see the health and structures of the eye in more detail. This means we can detect disease before it causes harm to vision. Our latest scanners are automated and can give us 3D models of your retina and nerves so we can look deep into the eye and see things that we hadn’t seen before just 10 years ago!
What are the myths surrounding cataracts? Can you bust these?
“It’s a film over the eye” - Wrong! Cataracts are when the eye’s natural lens starts to go cloudy. The lens sits between the iris and the pupil and helps us to control the light and focus of our eyes. When these become cloudy your vision can become blurry or people may become more vulnerable to bright lights.
“It’s reversible with eye drops or lifestyle changes” - Incorrect! There are no drops that have been proven to improve or fix cataracts and although sun exposure has a link to the condition, it is mainly genetic and as a result of ageing.
“You have to wait for your cataract to be ripe to fix it” - Wrong! In the past, cataracts could not be removed safely until they were at an advanced stage. That’s old technology and since the invention of micro-incision cataracts can be removed at any stage.
How often should we get our eyes tested? Why?
You should get your eyes tested annually if you are over 40 or have risk factors. I usually advise every 2 years for people below this age with no risk factors. Things like glaucoma or diabetes don’t usually cause symptoms until they are advanced and, although they can be treated, we don’t have cures for them and can’t always repair the damage done. That’s why it’s important to get tested so that we can catch things early!
What can an eye test detect?
On top of the usual vision loss, a good eye test can catch many other conditions. Diabetes , hypertension, neurological disorders including tumours, as well as many metabolic disorders all throw up red flags on eye test results.
Are we born with good/bad eyes? What can we do to make ‘bad eyes’ better?
Our brain learns about vision in the first 7 years of our lives. After this age, it’s not really possible to change a “lazy eye “. So, if you do have poor eyesight as a child it’s vital treatment is given promptly to ensure the best outcomes.
How can our lifestyle affect our eye health?
Like everything else in our bodies, our eyes are affected by our lifestyle choices. Things like diet, sun exposure, and exercise all affect our vision. On top of this, lack of sleep and stress can also be detrimental to our eye health. That’s why having a more holistic approach to your health is so important!
What are your top three tips for great eye health?
Get your eyes checked regularly - People often neglect their eye tests and wait for things to get worse before visiting a healthcare professional. Listen to your optician or ophthalmologist, if they say you need your eyes tested and book an appointment!
Take short breaks from your computer throughout the day - With more of us working from home, our laptops are becoming a regular fixture throughout our days. Taking 10-second breaks from your screen will work wonders for your eye health. Wearing tinted glasses is useful too.
Use (preservative-free) lubricants - Keeping your eyes moisturised throughout the day is important otherwise they may become irritated, sore and you may start to get blurred vision. Your eyes are moisturised naturally by tears but sometimes your body needs a helping hand to make enough to keep your eyes healthy, that’s when drops come in handy!
Information contained in this Articles page has been written by talkhealth based on available medical evidence. The content however should never be considered a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek medical advice before changing your treatment routine. talkhealth does not endorse any specific products, brands or treatments.
Information written by the talkhealth team
Last revised: 25 October 2021
Next review: 25 October 2024