The aim of this study was to examine visual problems among patients admitted to an inner city acute mental health unit. We measured visual acuity using a Snellen chart. Patients were also asked about perceived eye problems and access to services.
Of 55 in-patients on five acute general adult wards at an inner city mental health unit over a 3-day period, 31 agreed to participate in the study. Twenty (65%) had impaired visual acuity and 19 (61%) had not been to an optician for 5 or more years. Seventeen patients (55%) reported experiencing difficulty with their eyesight. The main problems reported were blurring of vision and periorbital pain. Of these 17 patients, 15 (88%) had impaired visual acuity on Snellen testing. Half of those who had previously been prescribed glasses or contact lenses reported that they had been lost.
Visual impairment appears to be another area of physical health which is underrecognised and undertreated in people with severe mental health problems. Although there are numerous issues that must be addressed by mental health staff, patients should be asked about eye problems and supported in accessing opticians.
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