Spring 2008

Welcome to our spring practice newsletter. In this issue we have article MOT for your eyes, letting you know why it is important to have a regular eye examination, and what that will involve. Driving at night give you tips for safer driving, especially at night. Seeing spots or floaters lets you know all about spots you might see in your sight and when to be concerned. Keeping your eye on the ball is all about your vision and sport and how you optician can help.

Is your sight MOT still valid?

'Regular brushing helps protect against gum disease'. If you ignore your dental care and have problems with your teeth, your dentist can usually fix you up with remedial treatment - like a filling, cap or bridge, or dentures; you can even manage with an occasional gap without seriously affecting your quality of life. But you only have one pair of eyes and they can't be patched up or replaced.

We rely on our sight in all aspects of daily life, but often neglect to give it a maintenance check. Poor eyesight can be hazardous to you and to other people. for example, it can lead to accidents in the home such as burns or falls, or motoring incidents if your driving ability is affected.

eye examination

A regular visit to your optician for an eye examination will monitor your eye health and help to prevent unnecessary deterioration or loss of sight. The examination checks your vision - whether you need any form of correction to see clearly - and for the possible presence of any disease or abnormality which could affect your eyesight.

Often, changes in vision can occur very gradually and people are unaware that their sight is not as good as it could be. Internal examination of the eye enables your optometrist to check for eye conditions like cataract, glaucoma or macular degeneration, and to identify warning signs of other underlying health issues such as high blood pressure or diabetes. The sooner a problem is detected, the better the chance of successful treatment. This is particularly important for young children to whom good eyesight is vital for learning, and for the elderly to improve or maintain their quality of life.

What to expect

A routine eye examination, carried out by our fully qualified optometrist, usually takes about half an hour, or maybe longer if extra specific tests are needed or requested.

Why are you here?

IT could be a regular check-up in response to our reminder, or you may have specific reason such as your employer's VDU screening. If you are expecting a problem with your vision, your practitioner will want to know your symptoms, how long you have had them and whether any changes have occured gradually or suddenly.

Medical history and lifestyle

Our optometrist will review your visual and medical history, as we need to know about any eye problems and whether you are taking any medications or have any allergies. Your family history can be an important factor too and we need to know if any of your blood relatives have glaucoma, cataracts, diabetes or suffer from migraines.

Changes in visual acuity can occur gradually, so it is advisable to establish a routine of eye examinations - at least every two years - throughout childhood, and to set a pattern of good eye care for life.

Examining your eyes

spectacles

A series of painless tests will assess your eyes both externally and internally, taking measurements with and without your spectacle or contact lenses if you wear them. Your standard of distance vision is established using a letter chart and if correction is needed the most appropriate strength lenses are chosen.

Your close vision is also similarly checked using reading or other charts. Other tests are carried out on the muscles controlling your eyes to ensure that they are working corerectly togehter. Your peripheral or side vision may also be checked. The condition of the back of your eye is then examined using an opthalmoscope which shines a light through the pupil.

The results of the various assesments will be explained to you, but if you have any concerns or questions do not be afraid to ask. At the end of your examination, you will be given a copy of your prescription for spectacles or lenses if you need them and advised of a recommended date for your next appointment. Usually you should have an eye examination every two years, or more frequently on the advice of your optometrist if you are having problems with your vision.

Good vision ensures a better quality of life and safer environment for us all. Make sure you keep a regular check and look after your eyes.

Be safer driving in the dark

driving in the dark

Driving at night is more challenging than many people think. Figures show that road accidents are more likely to happen at night than driving during the day. Why? The most obvious answer is that vision is restricted because of the dark conditions outside the headlamp range. More than 90% of a driver's appreciation of driving conditions depends on their sight. Depth perception and colour vision are all compromised once daylight starts to fade.

As sight tends to deteriorate with age, older drivers have even greater difficulties at night. Cataracts, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy can all affect vision very gradually, so you may have the early symptoms without being fully aware of deteriorating vision. Make sure you have regular eye examinations as you get older.

Considering some simple questions can give you a good idea about how your eyesight may be affecting your driving. Do you have problems reading street or road signs? Do you have difficulty seeing other cars, pedestrians or lane markings? If so, let your optometrist know during your examination. Successful treatment of any vision problems will reduce the risk of an accident.

Eyewear for motoring

If you have been told that you need spectacles or contact lenses for driving, it is essential to wear them for every journey, however short, otherwise you are breaking the law and could be putting yourself and other road-users at risk.

Some spectacles are better suited for driving. Our dispensing optician will be able to advise you on the best choice. Rimless designs, or those with thin rims, offer greater all-round vision and are better than those with heavy frames or wide sides which may restrict peripheral or side vision. Spectacles with plastic lenses are lighter and safer.

An anti-reflection coating can be applied to lenses at a reasonable cost to help you see more clearly by cutting down on reflections, especially from car headlights. Tinted lenses are not recommended and the Highway Code specifies that sunglasses should not be worn for driving at night.

If you normally wear contact lenses, a pair of spectacles could be more comfortable on long journeys or when your eyes get tired. They are also useful if you have a cold or suffer from allergies such as hayfever. Make life easier by keeping a spare pair in the car so that you are never without them.

Tips for safer motoring

  • Have regular eye examinations, especially if you are 45 or older, or if you notice any problems with your eyesight
  • Wear your spectacles every time you drive, even if it is only a short distance
  • Make sure your spectacles are clean and do not forget to keep your windscreen and windows clean too, both inside and outside
  • Remember that your sight can be affected by alcohol, prescription medicines or tiredness
  • In poor light or bad weather, turn your headlights on. They will at least make it easier for other drivers to see you. Make sure the lamps are clean and correctly aligned
  • It is more difficult to judge other vehicles' speed and distance at night, so reduce your speed and increase your distance from the vehicle in front

Reduce the risk

The most common reason for seeing a halo effect around lights is a dirty or scratched windscreen. To maximise your view, clean your car windows regularly, both inside and out. Modern car ventilation allows traffic film to accumulate on the inside of the screen, making it more difficult to see ahead against oncoming bright lights. If you wear spectacles clean those too.

On long journeys, stop for regular breaks. Tiredness can produce a momentary lapse of concentration which may cause the car to wander.

Never be complacent - even on the most familiar route - the unexpected can happen. Someone may suddenly step into the road, an animal may run out, something may fall from another vehicle, or the wind may blow an obstruction into your path. All of these require sharp eyes and quick reflexes.

For drivers, the importance of having a regular eye examination at least every two years cannot be stressed enough. Contact us today to arrange an appointment, to make sure that your sight is good as it can be.

Seeing spots before your eyes?

No matter what your age, you may occasionally see spots, specks or jagged lines which appear to be moving in front of the eye, but are actually inside. These are very common and are known as floaters, because they are particles floating in the fluid of the eye. They can be various sizes and shapes and often they look like specks of dust, strands of thread or cobwebs. They are mostly small and grey or semi-transparent. They are seen most clearly against a light background, or a bright sky. Some are hardly noticable, while others can be distracting and annoying. Since they are within the eye, they move as it does. When you move your eyes, the fluid inside the eye swirls around, and the floaters sometimes move into your line of vision. They usually disappear when you close your eyes.

What are floaters?

Floater can start before birth when tiny particles of protein, stray cells, or strands of tissue become trapped while your eyes are being formed. They become trapped in the inner part of your eye which consists of a clear, jelly-like fluid known as the vitreous. As they float in the fluid, they cast shadows on the retina and the brain perceives them being outside the eye.

floaters

They can also be caused by some eye diseases or injuries.

Floaters are common for those who are nearsighted, have had a cataract operation or laser eye surgery or have had an inflammation inside the eye.

The vitreous thickens and clumps with the natural ageing process, so as you get older floaters may become more noticeable and occur more frequently. They are usually harmless and don't affect vision; although they may be annoying, the brain learns to accommodate and ignore them.

However, if you experience a sudden increase in the nature or number of floaters, or start to suddenly see new floaters or flashes of light, you should make an appointment for an eye examination straightaway. Your optometrist will be able to determine whether what you are seeing is harmless, or if it might indicate a sight-threatening retinal condition which could need treatment. A patient information sheet about flashes and floaters is available from the downloads page.

Signs to be aware of:

  • Sudden onset of floaters or streaks of light not experienced before
  • Floaters or flashes you have had for some time start to look different in shape or size
  • Sudden increase in the number of floaters you see
  • A large floater which makes reading or driving difficult

Keeping your eye on the ball

Have you got your eye on the ball?

Over half the UK population engages in sport or active pastimes. You are probably not in training for the Olympic Games but, in company with many top class athletes and sportsmen, your performance may be enhanced by a visit to your optician.

Seeing clearly is arguably more important than any other consideration in competitive sport and this ability changes throughout our lives at different rates and at different times. Research shows that how well the eyes focus and work together has a direct effect on the ability to hit the target, score goals or make an accurate passing shot.

Spectacles or contact lenses?

vision and sport

Contact lenses are the correction of choice in most sports. There are many optical advantages to contact lenses; they do not steam up and are not affected by rain. Peripheral vision is unimpeded and the risk of a frame falling off or causing facial damage is eliminated. Optically they give an unmagnified view of the world, which can make it easier to judge distances. The latest advances in materials and lens design are making it possible for more and more people to use this form of correction, even to go swimming.

Contact lenses can be tinted against visible light and have built in protection from ultraviolet radiation. Extended wear lenses (up to a month day and night continuous wear) are useful in endurance sports or on a daily basis for people with sensitive eyes.

However, contact lenses do not afford the same protection as sports spectacles. Often they are worn in combination with plain safety appliances. Specially designed frame materials and lenses are made of polycarbonate, which is impact-resistant and up to 10 times stronger than ordinary plastic lenses.

The method of correction is a considered decision and needs to be discussed in detail with your optometrist in the light of the sport you play and your own particular preferences.

Safety

cycling

Sport by nature is full of hazards and serious eye injuries are on the increase as many people enjoy sport and continue long into their retirement.

Every sport has its own dangers and individual consideration is needed when it comes to choosing eye protectors. A squash ball is about the same size as the eye socket so a direct hit can be devastating. In a closely played game like squash, serious injury can be caused by the racquet head. Similar avoidable hazards occur in games like badminton and basketball, although in basketball it is likely to be a stray finger that causes the damage. In rugby and football unfortunately, eye injuries can be deliberate and there are well known examples of international players who wear eye protection.

Bright light

In outdoor sports sunlight can be a particular problem. There is an increasing awareness of the dangers of sunlight and ultra-violet radiation, which can cause premature ageing of the lens of the eye, and could lead to cataract formation or retinal damage. Acute exposure can cause "sunburn" on the eye called keratitis; skiers know it is as temporary snow blindness. Sports like golf and yachting and fishing are at particular risk, where hours can be spent under the full force of the sun or reflected glare from snow or water.

playing sport

Indoor sports can be affected by glare. Courts often have poorly positioned lights and flood lit soccer pitches can cause problems when ball is kicked high. The brightly lit white walls of a squash court can be very distracting to light sensitive people. Anti-reflection coatings can be applied to all lenses to allow better light transmission on dull days and reduce annoying reflections

For indoors and out, your optometrist can help choose the best tints and filters to maintain healthy vision. These can be applied to prescription spectacles and a wide range of modern sunglass designs.

Sport is a pleasure and a celebration of life - your optometrist really can help you enjoy it.