Posts by Julie Breen

Opticians helping in the Fight against Brain Cancer.

Julie Breen

Yes! Really!  Well, we are in South Tees at any rate.

It's been a bit of an interesting journey to get to this point and I've become involved with some very remarkable people on the way , but in my role as Chair of the Tees Local Optical Committee ( LOC) together with the Macmillan Integration of Cancer Care Project for the South Tees Foundation Trust, we are just about to extend a pilot into Redcar and Cleveland that has been running in Middlesbrough for the past three months. 

It all started with a rather random phone call one miserable wintry afternoon. A lovely lady called Carol, the project co-ordinator I later discovered, wondered if I thought that local opticians would be interested in being part of a project to improve the speed of diagnosis of brain tumours. And I said "Yes, well who wouldn't ". 

And so I was introduced to an amazing and largely unsung group of people who are working to improve cancer outcomes in the South Tees Trust area. A hugely varied and committed board that aims to improve the journey for all sufferers of every kind of cancer and their families.  This board consists of hospital doctors and managers, nurse managers, Macmillan doctors from the community, those that looks after care homes and community services, patients whose lives cancer has touched, and loads of others. They are all working towards improving diagnosis, making treatment in hospital more streamlined, taking treatments out of hospital if possible, looking after the families of cancer sufferers, looking at end of life care and helping the increasing numbers of people who survive cancer but have to cope with the physical and psychological aftermath. All in an patch that includes areas of urban living, rural communities and some parts of severe deprivation. A huge undertaking I'm sure you'll agree, and with the inevitable limited resources, the board has prioritised it's activities.

One of the major concerns in Tees and the wider UK is the stage at which brain tumours, some of which are cancer, are diagnosed and treated. It seems that although the NHS' ' two week rule' has had a significant impact in the earlier diagnosis and treatment of many kinds of cancer, the same can't be said of brain cancer. These malignancies although, and I can't stress this enough, QUITE RARE, are too often diagnosed late when the cancer is severely affecting the sufferer, and the probable outcomes by that time aren't good. 

Some of the reasons for this are that the early symptoms can be quite general and non specific. For instance, a headache of a type that more often than not is associated with fatigue or dehydration or stress, when fatigue and dehydration and stress are all present in a sufferer's life. 

So why are opticians getting involved I bet you're wondering? Well, as I said some of the symptoms of brain tumour can be quite commonplace and general. However some of the SIGNS i.e. what is observed, are very specific and seen only in brain related problems. Two of these signs are easily found by opticians because we have the equipment in practice to find them. 

And that's what the South Tees Opticians Referral Project (STORP) is all about,  getting patients who arrive at their GP with symptoms that are suspicious, or people who come for a sight test with unexplained headache or the like, screened with both a visual field screener and have the backs of their eyes viewed in 3D. And if those results suggest a problem, to get the patient referred direct to neurology at James Cook University Hospital extremely quickly. 

The pilot and pathway has been running in the Middlesbrough area for the past 3 months. Results are rather hard to assess at the moment as I have previously said, brain tumours are thankfully rather rare ( an optician can have a whole career and only detect one or two), but we're confident that the mechanisms are in place to speed the process of detection and referral should it be appropriate. The rollout into Redcar and Cleveland means that more people have access to the service and we're more likely to see someone benefit positively from it.

On a national level, this is the very first collaboration between community opticians and secondary, hospital care to improve patient care, and the Department of Health are taking a keen interest. No pressure then!!

The official briefing for the opticians in Redcar and Cleveland is Tuesday 29th September, and we hope to have things moving very soon after that. 

Personally, it's great to see the skills and equipment that opticians have on every High Street being utilized in this innovative way.  I am working very hard, as are all those involved from the Macmillan Integration of Cancer Care Project, to make both these pilot studies a success as we would all like to see the speed of diagnosis and treatment of this rare but devastating group of conditions speeded up. We all want to see many more people who are diagnosed with brain tumours surviving and recovering.  With Macmillan Cancer Support the fight against cancer is always the top priority. 


National Eye Health Week

Julie Breen

National Eye Health Week is from the 22nd of September to the 28th of September 2015. 

Research undertaken on behalf of the College of Optometrists reveals that 68% of people value their eyesight as their most important sense, yet 36% of people admit to ignoring problems with their eyes for over a month, putting off visiting an optician and a further 13% of people will put it off for years before seeking help, even if they have noticed deterioration of their eyesight. These findings also reveal that 54% of people sometimes struggle to see their television screens and a further 50% find it difficult to read books.

It is recommended that you have your eyes checked every two years by an optometrist, though this can vary depending on your age and if you have a family history of eye conditions. If you have a child who is under 18, they are entitled to a free eye test from the NHS. You are also entitled to free eye care if you are over 60, registered blind or partially sighted, have been diagnosed with diabetes or glaucoma (or a close family member has been diagnosed with glaucoma). People in receipt of benefits such as pension credit, jobseeker’s allowance or universal credit can also receive free eye tests and a voucher to help cover the cost of glasses or contact lenses. 

Despite the NHS providing this service, more than 1 in 10 people have never had their eyes tested and are potentially ignoring eye conditions that could cause deterioration of their vision.
IntelliSight Opticians gladly welcome NHS patients and encourage anybody who has had any problems with their eyesight to drop in and book an eye test with us. We also offer a “2 for 1 for anyone” special, which allows you to get two pairs of glasses for yourself or one for yourself and another for a friend or family member. Our range of spectacles start from as low as £24 and we offer a wide range for men, women and children, including some top designer name brands.

IntelliSight to be opened by Mayor Brenda Forster - September 19th!

Julie Breen

On Saturday the 19th of September, IntelliSight Opticians is going to be officially opened by the mayor of Redcar & Cleveland, Brenda Forster. This Saturday morning will be a fun event for families and children, we will have an impressive bubbles machine and an amazing balloon crafting display, let’s hope they know how to make the Redcar penguins!

We’re opening just in time for National Eye Health Week, which runs from the 22nd of September to the 28th of September 2015. Did you know that over 1 in 10 people have never had an eye test, despite 68% of people surveyed by the College of Optometrists claiming that their eyesight is their most valued sense?

We are inviting members of the local Redcar community to come and see your new local opticians, with a chance to ask any questions about what we do and what we can do for you and your family’s eye care. You will have a chance to take a look around our new shop and register yourself and your family as new patients.

We welcome both private and NHS patients of all ages and offer free eye tests and redeem glasses vouchers provided by the NHS. If you do not qualify for free or discounted eye care through the NHS, we also offer many discounts through our [website], including our popular ‘2 for 1 for anyone’ offer, which allows you to get two pairs of glasses for yourself or one for yourself and one for a friend or family member. Our spectacle range starts as low as £24, and for those of you who prefer contact lenses, we offer a free first month when using the voucher code WEB08.

To find out more about IntelliSight Opticians and the eye care services we provide, visit our website at and be sure to follow us on our social media profiles, Facebook and Twitter #BePartOfTheWaddle

Parasite was eating her eyeball

Julie Breen

19-year-old contact lens wearer, Jessica Greaney, thought she only had a minor eye infection: her eye was sore and her eyelid kept drooping. "But, by the end of the week, my eye was bulging, and it looked like a huge red golf ball," Greaney said. "It was swollen, and extremely painful, and they admitted me into hospital."

Little did she know that there was a parasite, Acanthamoeba, living inside her eyeball. Left untreated, this parasite can cause blindness. To diagnose the problem, doctors had to scrape away a small sample of her eye tissue with a scalpel.

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