During Migraine Awareness Week, why not take another look at eyecare in your workplace

Migraine Awareness Week runs from 2 to 8 September 2018 – we spoke to Specsavers Corporate, who explains why eyecare is especially important for migraine sufferers and what employers and employees can do to help prevent attacks.

How common is Migraine?

Migraine is the third most common disease in the world, affecting an estimated one in seven people globally.

Migraine Awareness Week aims to raise awareness of the condition and this year focuses on the impact of migraines in the workplace.

The impact of Migraine on employers

Migraine affects 12% of the population – more than diabetes and asthma combined – and 90% of sufferers say their cannot continue to work and function normally during attacks.

The Migraine Trust is asking employers to consider making reasonable adjustments to accommodate employees who suffer from migraines.

Reasonable adjustments could include flexible working practices as well as adapting the physical environment to help prevent the triggering of a migraine – and sometimes it’s simply a case of employers doing what they should be anyway.

How workplaces could be contributing to the problem

Prolonged use of display screen equipment is a known trigger for migraines.  Most employers are aware of the need to give employees regular breaks from the screen, but very few of them know what the recommendations are and even fewer actively encourage their employees to take them.

HSE advice is to allow employees to take five to ten minutes break every hour, and advise this is more effective than 20 minutes every two hours.  VDU equipment can also have an impact on eyesight and therefore employers are required to provide eyecare by law to anyone using VDU equipment, but even where provided, employers don’t always communicate this effectively.

We spoke to Specsavers Corporate Eyecare to ask them how migraines could affect your employees’ vision, the steps employees should take if they are affected and what employers can do to help.  They advise:

Ocular migraine symptoms can include loss of vision

Ocular migraines, sometimes referred to as retinal migraines, are temporary visual disturbances. Typical symptoms may include temporary loss of vision in one or both eyes, blurred vision, flashing lights, blind spots, or loss of peripheral vision. These symptoms may or may not be accompanied by a headache. Vision loss usually lasts to around 15 to 20 minutes, before normal vision gradually starts to return.

Advice – How employees should handle an ocular migraine

Specsavers advise employees who suspect that they are suffering from a migraine that is accompanied by vision disturbances to rest their eyes until symptoms subside and the vision returns to normal.

Dr Nigel Best, senior optometrist and clinical spokesperson for Specsavers Corporate Eyecare, said:

‘The symptoms commonly associated with ocular migraines can mimic symptoms associated with more serious retinal conditions, for example a retinal detachment. For that reason, it is important that if you experience these symptoms you should have your eyes examined urgently. This will allow your optometrist to rule out any eye condition that may be responsible. If your optometrist concludes that your symptoms are migrainous they can write to your GP who can discuss the most appropriate treatment options.  Your optometrist may also be able to give tailored advice to the individual on how best to manage the particular symptoms from which they suffer.’

Wider risks for Migraine sufferers

While Migraine itself can be debilitating, research suggest that migraines also double the risk of the most common type of stroke, where the artery supplying the brain is blocked by a clot. This is recognised by The British Heart Foundation, where evidence is also discussed regarding the link between migraine and heart disease. Regular eye tests are therefore especially important for sufferers.

‘An eye examination in itself can help with the detection of risk factors for cardiovascular disease such as high blood pressure and diabetes,’ said Dr Best. ‘It is possible for the optometrist to view the small blood vessels at the back of the eye in which changes may indicate such conditions. This is a further reason to visit an optician if suffering from migraines.

What can employers do?

The simple option for employers is to implement an eye care policy that provides an eye test for all employees – and many do already, but their employees don’t necessarily know that their employer already offers this vital benefit.

Of course, many HR Managers now offer return to work interviews – so next time someone returns after a Migraine related absence, taking the opportunity to remind them of the company’s eyecare benefit may just be an opportunity to save their life.

Dr Best said:

‘The Display Screen Equipment (DSE) regulations oblige employers to provide all screen users with eye care. It is likely, therefore, that employers are already providing access to the necessary preventative eye care, it may just be a case of communicating the benefits more widely, and Migraine Awareness Week provides the perfect opportunity. 

For more information on the benefits of eye care in the workplace, visit www.specsavers.co.uk/corporate.