'It's embarrassing': Claudia Winkleman's 'life-changing' operation

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pictured in December 2020. (Getty Images)
Claudia Winkleman has opened up about her deteriorating eyesight, pictured in December 2020. (Getty Images)

Claudia Winkleman has opened up about her deteriorating eyesight, admitting to finding it "embarrassing" as she sometimes struggles to read the autocue while presenting Strictly Come Dancing

“I can't even begin to tell you how blind I am. It's embarrassing. I can't read the autocue," the TV presenter told The Sun.

“My eyes have deteriorated so badly, I'm not meant to drive. I am doing the wrong job.”

She made a huge change to her eyesight by getting laser eye surgery after seeking the advice of a medical professional at Moorfields Eye Hospital.

Winkleman said: “I booked into the doctor and he explained how they are going to do it. I had to ask him a few questions like, 'Am I going to die?' - to which he laughed at me - and, 'Could my eye pop out and roll?' He replied, 'You're quite highly strung yet hilarious.'

“I handed over my credit card. He gave me an enormous thing and said you have to read that. I said 'I can't'," she added. 

Read more: Kate Garraway's mystery eye condition was part of a contact lens that had been stuck in her eye for six days

Thankfully, the surgery to improve her severe short-sightedness was a success.

“It was a frightening time but the operation was life-changing," she said.

“I am so grateful to the fantastic staff at Moorfields [Hospital],” she added.

Winkleman certainly isn't alone in experiencing deteriorating eyesight as she gets older. 

Just like your body, your eyes and vision change over time," explains Ceri Smith-Jaynes, optometrist and spokesperson for the Association of Optometrists (AOP). 

"Not everyone experiences the same types of changes but a few of the most common conditions are presbyopia, cataract and age-related macular degeneration."

The presenter has admitted she struggles to read the autocue on Strictly, pictured in September 2021. (Getty Images)
The presenter has admitted she struggles to read the autocue on Strictly, pictured in September 2021. (Getty Images)

Presbyopia is probably the most common age-related eye condition. It tends to start impacting people in their 40s as the natural lens inside their eye hardens, making it difficult to focus on objects close to them, or to read small print. 

According to Specsavers, common symptoms include:

· Having difficulty reading small print

· Needing to hold reading material, such as a mobile, at arm’s length to focus properly on it

· Having eye strain or headaches after reading or doing close work

· Needing brighter lighting when reading or doing close work

· Squinting to bring objects into focus

Simple reading glasses can usually help with this.

Read more: What is macular disease, the condition that has stopped Dame Judi Dench from driving?

According to the NHS cataracts happen when the lens, a small transparent disc inside your eye, develops cloudy patches.

"Over time these patches usually become bigger causing blurry, misty vision and eventually blindness," the site explains. 

"When we're young, our lenses are usually like clear glass, allowing us to see through them. As we get older, they start to become frosted, like bathroom glass, and begin to limit our vision."

Watch: Emotional moment blind man sees again for first time in nearly 20 years

If your cataracts are not too bad, stronger glasses and brighter reading lights may help for a while, but as cataracts get worse over time, you may eventually need surgery to remove and replace the affected lens.

Surgery is the only treatment that's proven to be effective for cataracts.

According to the Macular Society, macular disease is the biggest cause of sight loss in the UK affecting 1.5m people, with around 300 people being diagnosed every day.

Though it can affect people of any age - even children, the most common type of macular disease is age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which typically affects people over the age of 50.

Recent statistics reveal there are 600,000 people in the UK with AMD and this number is expected to double in the next 20 years as the population ages.

Read more: This '20-20-20' rule could help protect your eyesight

Experts recommend visiting your optician to help prevent deteriorating eyesight. (Getty Images)
Experts recommend visiting your optician to help prevent deteriorating eyesight. (Getty Images)

How to look after your eye sight as you age

According to Smith-Jaynes the risk of developing eye disease does increase as you get older, so it is advisable not to wait until you notice a problem with your vision before booking an appointment with an optician. 

"Having regular sight tests every two years, or more often if your optometrist recommends it, is the best way to protect your vision," she explains.  

But there are lots of other things you can do too, such as having a healthy diet, keeping fit, not smoking and knowing if certain eye conditions run in your family. 

"Optometrists can pick up health problems and eye diseases that you’re not aware of too and it’s a lot easier to treat eye disease in the early stages,” she adds. 

The impact of the pandemic on eyesight

Of course the pandemic has also been having an impact on the nation's eyes, with nearly half (44%) of adults claiming they are currently concerned about their eyesight.

A new report, The Vision of Britain, based on new research commissioned by Optegra Eye Health Care to review the state of the nation’s eye health also reveals that cases of severe "white cataracts" are on the increase and 18% of UK adults now describe their poor vision as ‘a disability’.

“The pandemic has had a shocking impact on our eyes, with nearly a fifth (17%) saying that poor vision is now stopping them living life to the full," explains Mr Amir Hamid, medical director and ophthalmic surgeon at Optegra.

“We are now treating high volumes of patients with eye strain, increased prescriptions and even more seriously, ‘white’ cataracts, so severe that the lens is now opaque – something typically only seen frequently in developing countries."

Dr Hamid wants to encourage those suffering from deteriorating eyesight to book in for an eye test with their local optician.  

"With the dramatic increase in hours online, it is vital that eye health is checked, and individuals are supported to achieve their optimum vision.”

The Association of Optometrists’ website has lots of helpful information about different types of conditions and treatment advice www.aop.org.uk/patients

The AOP have provided some everyday tips on caring for your eyes: Top tips for healthy eyes | Association of Optometrists (AOP)

Watch: See which of your habits is actually hurting your eyesight

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