How much do GPs know about your eyes?

One day just before Christmas, my friend woke up with a red eye. No pain, no blurriness, no crustiness, just perhaps a slight ache.

I told her it’s simply a burst blood vessel that will heal itself over the next 10 days, no treatment necessary, just leave well alone. Mum (who’s an Optometrist like myself) happened to see it and agreed with me.

But my friend decided to see her local GP anyway, just to be safe. The GP took one look at it and prescribed steroid eye drops. He said it’s either conjunctivitis or a particular type of inflammation called episcleritis.

“Take the drops 3 times a day and if it isn’t better after 3 days, come back”

Well, it was still red after 3 days so my friend went back and the GP sent her off to A+E.

The A+E doctor told her she has a burst blood vessel and that it will heal itself over the next 10 days, no treatment necessary.

A week later, her eye was back to normal.

My point in relaying this story is that whilst the GP was being cautious in his diagnosis, ultimately it was the wrong diagnosis. The result was that my friend was given medicated drops that she did not need, and wasted her time going to A+E for a problem that not only did not need A+E services, but could have been solved by a trip to the opticians.

So my question is, are GPs the best “go to” health care professionals when it comes to your eyes?

In this instance, the answer is most definitely no.

Your Optometrist should really be your first port of call. But many people don’t see their Optometrist as the person to go to when they have an eye problem… something that I have never really understood.

Why would you not go to the opticians? Your local Optometrist has not only trained for 4 years or more in eye-care specifically, they are probably much more accessible than you GP!

Understandably, you may feel, like my friend that you should go to the GP to be on the safe side, as GPs are a good source of knowledge on many conditions, but why not go to the opticians first, and let them advise you on the best course of action?

In the majority of cases the GP will tell you to go to the opticians first before they do anything anyway.

At our sister practice Alfred Jay Opticians in Edmonton North London, they have a “Minor Eye Conditions” Service, where if you have a red eye or something similar, it’s possible to get seen within 48 hours.

The moral of the story, if you have an eye-related problem, go and see your local eye specialist!


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