Spring 2009

Welcome to our spring practice newsletter. In this issue we have article called Light and shades giving you advice on choosing the right sunglasses for you. An article about Common lid Infections tells you all about this conditions, and why a regular eye examination is important. Diabetes and your eyes diabetes, which is the most common cause of sight loss in people of working age. Don't fall into bad habits is practical advice for keeping your spectacles or contact lenses in the best condition.

Light and shades

While the popularity of sunglasses has expanded from holiday wear to become an all year round accessory with a wide range of tints and colours, you should remember that their prime function is to protect your eyes from exposure to harmful radiation. Whether you want to screen out bright sunshine on the beach or golf course, the glare of low winter sun, or dazzle from snow or water, it is essential to ensure your choice of sun specs is appropriate for the conditions.

Effective screening against damage caused by ultra violet light depends on the treatment and coatings of the lenses rather than on the shade or darkness of the sunglasses. Poor quality fashion sunglasses may leave you vulnerable to headaches, fatigue and eyestrain.

sunglasses

Protecting your eyes

UVA and UVB rays can damage different parts of the eye and the sensitive skin around the eyes, and are risk factors in diseases such as cataracts and macular degeneration. Good quality sunglasses block the maximum possible amount of these rays. Make sure that the sunglasses you choose filter at least 99% of UVA /UVB light and carry the CE mark; this indicates they have been manufactured to controlled high standards and have UV absorbers in the material of the lens.

Children are particularly vulnerable as their lenses and pupils are still developing and allow more light to reach the retina. Also they can spend a lot of time playing outdoors. As well as using high factor sunblock for their skin, it is vital to protect their eyes from UV radiation with well fitting high quality sunspecs.

Sunglasses act as a barrier preventing dust and airborne irritants such as pollen reaching the eye, so they can sometimes help reduce the symptoms of hayfever and other allergies.

Choices to reflect upon

sunglasses

If you wear spectacles, you can have sunglasses fitted with lenses to meet your prescription.

Other options are clipover lenses or, if your frames are of suitable material, a magnetic clip-on.

For contact lens wearers or those who do not need vision correction, there is an extremely wide range of frames with plain lenses in various styles and shapes. If you spend a lot of time in the sun, then a dark tint will be more comfortable. A lighter lens tint can be suitable for duller days or for indoors under artificial lighting or working at the computer.

Neutral shades of brown, green or grey have a less distorting effect on the natural colours around us, whereas blue tints can change the way we perceive some colours and are not recommended for driving. Polarised lenses are effective in combating glare, for instance reflection from road surfaces or water. Close-fitting wraparound styles offer good protection from wind and light from the side, making them ideal for sports. Shatterproof polycarbonate lenses and impact-resistant frames are particularly recommended for sports and for children.

Photochronic lenses are also widely available. These darken on exposure to bright light and can help your eyes to adjust to frequent changes in light conditions without the need to constantly take your sunglasses on and off.

Your optometrist and dispensing optician can advise you on the best style and tint to suit your lifestyle. They will ensure that the sunglasses you buy from their practice are made from high quality material and that they fit properly to give your eyes the best possible protection - valuable advice that is not generally available from other retail outlets.

Common lid infection

lid infection

There are a number of common eye conditions which, whilst they do not threaten your sight, can be irritating and uncomfortable.

These can be diagnosed during a visit to your optician or GP and treatment usually clears the problem within a few days.



Conjunctivitis

This is an inflammation of the membrane covering the white of the eye and the inner side of the eyelid and may affect one or both eyes. It is normally not serious and should not affect your vision. Main types of conjunctivitis include:

  • Allergic - triggered by pollen (as in hayfever), dustmites or cosmetics - the eye becomes itchy and red. Try not to rub your eye as this will increase soreness.
  • Chemical - reaction to chemicals in smoke or fumes or chlorinated water, for example in swimming pools - redness, discomfort and watering are the usual effects. Avoid such atmospheres if possible.
  • Infectious - associated with the spread of bacteria from skin or respiratory illnesses or with a virus such as the common cold. These forms are highly contagious and good hygiene is crucial to avoid spreading from person to person.

Treatments

Once the allergen or source of the irritation is identified, and if it cannot be avoided, it may be possible to administer medication to subdue the symptoms and ease discomfort.

The body's immune system helps to fight off the condition if a virus is the cause; eyedrops may help to relieve the symptoms. Bacterial conjunctivitis may need antibiotic drops or ointment.

Any discharge should be removed by bathing the eye with cooled boiled water and blotting dry with a disposable tissue; avoid sharing face towels.

Stye

If a tiny gland on the edge of the eyelid at the base of an eyelash becomes infected a stye may develop. Initially, the whole of the lid may be affected; the swelling then becomes localised, and the stye appears as a small, reddened and sometimes painful lump often with a yellow, pus filled point; as it grows larger it may cause discomfort when blinking.

Styes commonly affect children but can develop at any age. The majority are caused by very mild infection and with careful hygiene will clear in a few days. They can be treated with warm bathing and gentle cleaning of the eyelid. Apply a compress, such as a flannel or tissue soaked in hot water, several times a day to help remove the pus, until the stye starts to subside. Do not be tempted to try to burst it, and take care not to spread the infection to the other eye. If you normally wear contact lenses, change to wearing your spectacles instead to avoid spreading the infection and leave aside makeup.

If a stye persists an antibiotic ointment may be prescribed. However if the condition recurs frequently consult your optometrist or GP for further investigation.

Diabetes and your eyes

What is diabetes?

cakes

Diabetes is a serious condition which affects over two million people in the UK. It is estimated that a further one million people have the condition without realising it. An early indicator can often be a sight problem.

Diabetes occurs when the body's method of changing glucose (sugar) into energy is not working as it should. Too high a level of glucose causes a chemical imbalance leading to dehydration. Early diagnosis and treatment are vital to prevent possibly life-threatening damage to organs of the body. Doctors believe that the increasing incidence of diabetes, especially in children, is partly due to obesity, lack of exercise and high-sugar diets.

How we can help

Optometrists are often the first to suspect diabetes because of the changes it can cause in the eye or sight. Once detected and diagnosed, the optometrist can liaise with the patient's doctor and help to monitor the progress of the disease and how effectively it is being controlled. This is done by regularly examining in detail any changes to the appearance of the retina at the back of the eye over time.

Diabetes sometimes causes the focusing ability of the eye to fluctuate day to day, or to weaken but it can also cause more serious changes, for example diabetic retinopathy.

What is diabetic retinopathy?

proliferative retinopathy

This is a serious eye disease associated with the circulatory problems of diabetics. It is a major cause of sight loss and blindness, although vision can be preserved if it is diagnosed early enough.

The disease affects the small blood vessels in the retina. These become weak and can be blocked or break down. In some diabetics, retinal blood vessels may swell and leak. In others, abnormal new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina.

Often there are no symptoms, such as vision changes or pain, which could indicate the disease. It may even progress a long way without any symptoms which is why it is vital for diabetics to have their eyes examined on a regular basis.

An optometrist can perform several tests to check on the progression of the disease which may include retinal photography. If abnormalities are discovered, you may be referred to an ophthalmologist (a specialist eye doctor) at a hospital or clinic.

Who is at risk?

Diabetic retinopathy is more common in people who have had diabetes for a long time. However it can appear within the first year or two or even be present when the condition is diagnosed. The risk is increased by poor management of blood sugar levels, which is why following dietary and medical advice is essential.

Safeguard your vision

Diabetics are also at risk from other eye diseases. They are twice as likely to develop cataracts, and at an earlier age. However, cataracts can be treated very successfully nowadays, usually without even having to stay overnight in hospital. Glaucoma may also develop and, as with diabetic retinopathy, the longer someone has diabetes, the greater the risk. Glaucoma can be treated with medications or surgery.

Many problems can be treated with much greater success when they are discovered early on, which is where your optometrist plays an important role. Discovering and treating eye disease is the best way to prevent vision loss or blindness, which is why regular eye examinations are important to monitor your eye health.

Visual problems don't necessarily mean that you have a serious illness. Usually, it means that you might need glasses or contact lenses to improve your sight. If that is the case, we can help you make the right choice for you and your lifestyle.

Don't fall into bad habits

blue cloth and spectacles

Spectacles and contact lenses can enhance vision and our quality of life beyond all recognition, so isn't it worth just a little effort to take proper care of them? How many of us leave our spectacles lying around or stuffed casually into a pocket or bag? How many of us put them lens side down? And worse, haven't we all at some time or another quickly wiped our spectacles or sunglasses with a tissue or part of our clothing? How many contact lens wearers are tempted to cut short their cleaning system when pushed for time despite the potential hazards to health that can ensue? We can easily slip into little bad habits without realising the potential for harm.

Specs aware

Spectacles suffer from wear and tear, particularly the lenses, but if you clean them incorrectly you can inadvertently be damaging them. Wash the lenses frequently with mild soap and water to remove dirt and oil deposits, then dry with a soft clean cloth. Do not use tissues, towels or clothing which are too abrasive; they can damage the transparency of the lenses and spoil finishes such as anti-reflective coating.

Lens cloths and cleaning sprays have anti-static properties and will remove dust and particles without smearing

Protect the lenses from scratches and your frames from accidental damage by keeping them in a case when not in use. If you have a habit of putting your spectacles face down or losing them, wearing them on a cord or decorative chain could be the answer. There may be products specially designed to keep your spectacles in good condition. Take a look around while you're in the practice.

Contact lens care is crucial

optiexpess

Whether your contact lenses are disposed of daily, weekly, monthly or even after a longer period, it is vital to care of them correctly. Improper contact lens care has been linked to various eye infections, which is why it's important to protect against harmful bacteria.

Follow the advice given by your practitioner on the best way to clean, rinse, disinfect and store them. Different solutions are suitable for different contact lenses, so it is best to follow our guidance.

Cleaning and disinfecting

Make sure your hands are thoroughly clean before handling your lenses. This is vital to prevent eye infections or damage to the eyes or contact lens. Always use the recommended cleaning solutions; never be tempted to use tap or bottled water. Don't swim or shower whilst wearing your lenses as the water may contain bacteria harmful to the eye.

Specially formulated cleaning and soaking solutions have been developed to remove dirt, debris and germs from contact lenses. Most solutions are multi-purpose and will also remove protein build-up.

Never re-use soaking solution or top up; discard it and replace with fresh solution each time you store your lenses.

Lenses should be kept in a rigid storage container, filled with disinfecting solution, to keep them moist and safe from damage overnight or when not in use. Rinse and air dry your storage case daily, clean it with a toothbrush and lens solution weekly, and replace it every month to minimise risk of infection.

Contact lens cases, like spectacle cases, are available in a variety of attractive designs.

Your eyesight should be your top priority. A little thought and care are all that is needed to ensure that the spectacles and contact lenses which enhance your vision are kept in good condition.