Spring 2014

Look to the Future

Although our eyes are fully formed at birth, it takes a long time for these powerful tools to develop the skills we take for granted, like recognising each other. Newborn babies can’t focus or see colours, but in their first year, their eyes will master the techniques of tracking and identifying moving objects. Toddlers are constantly improving their hand-to-eye coordination and depth perception, and young children learn to read, write and play as their eyes become more able to interpret the world around them.

Because good eyesight is so vital for children, it’s never too early to book them into the practice to see an optician for a full eye test. Even if they’re too young to read, optometrists can still learn a great deal about your child’s overall eye health and vision. As we explain over the page, modern eye examinations test every aspect of a patient’s sight, not just their prescription strength.

Regular eye tests are particularly vital for toddlers and young children because their eyes can develop a number of vision problems that could last a lifetime if left undiagnosed, even though successful treatment is often quick and easy. Although some conditions are obvious, such as a squint, others can be impossible to spot without specialist equipment and medical training. It’s important to remember that young children naturally assume their eyesight is normal, so things like blurred vision won’t seem strange or unusual to them.

As well as organising family trips to the optician, you can help to identify sight- related problems by watching out for symptoms like light sensitivity or sitting too close to TVs or books. Investigate any family history of eye-related diseases, because your children may be at higher risk of developing these conditions - almost a third of genetic syndromes involve the eyes.

Testing Times

It’s hard to overstate the importance of having regular eye tests. A comprehensive eye examination is effectively a full M0T for your eyes, highlighting changes to spectacle or contact lens prescriptions, and flagging up health conditions long before they start to have a damaging impact on your sight.

A full eye test should be undertaken by a qualified optometrist, although some of the simpler checks can be handled by an optical assistant. If you wear contact lenses contact the practice before your appointment to check whether you should wear your lenses, as the appointment is designed to check the condition of your eyes without any vision correction aids in place. A few pre-exam questions will help the optometrist to establish any issues that have arisen since the last test, and these questions will briefly cover your general health, lifestyle and levels of fitness as well as your perception of your eyesight.

Although several elements of a standard eye exam involve light being shone into the eyes, these techniques are all completely painless, and each one is very valuable to the optometrist. For instance, a hand-held ophthalmoscope is used to examine your retinas, checking blood vessels for signs of high pressure or diseases. Similarly, a brightly- lit microscope called a slit lamp can identify scratches on the surface of your eyes, which is an especially important test for regular contact lens wearers. Many practices now have sophisticated cameras that can compare current images of your eyes with previous ones, identifying potential problems or health issues long before they become noticeable to the naked eye.

Many of us have different levels of vision in each eye, so both eyes will be tested separately to check their individual prescription strengths, and make allowances for conditions like astigmatism. Similarly, automated visual field screening tests each eye’s central and peripheral vision, ruling out any risk of blind spots. The autorefractor is another computerised process, measuring how each eye focuses and processes light when looking at a colourful picture. This gives the optometrist a general idea about prescription strength, which can then be honed with reading tests. The most famous of these is the classic Snellen chart, where rows of differently-sized capital letters are illuminated; various spectacle lenses are inserted and adjusted until you can comfortably read even the smallest characters along the bottom row. This identifies your best corrected visual acuity - in other words, your exact prescription strength.

Eyes undergo a great deal of development when we are young, so full annual check-ups are essential for babies, toddlers and school-age children alike.

Eye tests for children run on broadly similar lines, but with more emphasis on checking aspects like whether both eyes move in tandem. Our eyes undergo a great deal of development when we’re young, so full annual check-ups are essential for babies, toddlers and school-age children alike. Regardless of your age, a full eye examination will provide you with an up to-date prescription and complete peace of mind.

Sight for Sore Eyes

Your eyes are delicate and complicated organs, and even a minor infection can have a big impact on your sight and appearance. Any face-to4-face communication involves eye contact, so a condition like conjunctivitis can be socially embarrassing, as well as physically uncomfortable. In this article, we’ll explain the main causes of conjunctivitis, outline some simple treatments, and explain why an appointment with your optometrist should be your first course of action.

Conjunctivitis occurs when one part of the eye, celled the conjunctiva, gets infected or swells up. This thin layer of clear tissue is designed to protect the eyes from harm, but it can easily be attacked by viruses or bacteria, resulting in various different symptoms. Fortunately, conjunctivitis is easily dealt with, and your optometrist is ideally placed to diagnose it and recommend a programme of treatment. There’s no need to visit a doctor — a qualified optometrist can prescribe any required medication.

Viral conjunctivitis is very common and often attacks one eye only. Classic symptoms of viral conjunctivitis are excessive itchiness and watering, and there are relatively few available treatments for this condition. Cool compresses and eye baths can help to soothe any itching, and it’s important to avoid make-up for a week, giving your eyes the best chance to recover.

The leading causes of conjunctivitis are viral or bacterial infections.

Unlike the viral strain, bacterial conjunctivitis can be treated with eye drops or creams. This type of conjunctivitis often produces small amounts of pus, which (as well as looking rather unpleasant) can make it difficult to open your eyes first thing in the morning. If the inner eyelids become infected as well, your eyes can feel gritty and sticky, as though something’s trapped inside them. Fortunately, like viral conjunctivitis, these symptoms should go away within a few days.

The cause of allergic conjunctivitis can be hard to pinpoint, but new cosmetics or high pollen levels are classic triggers. Once a likely source has been identified, you should do your best to avoid it. This type of conjunctivitis often feels like a bad dose of hayfever with itchiness and watery eyes. Running water can provide short-term relief and your optometrist may decide to prescribe special antihistamine drops as well as lubricants to relieve the symptoms.

A few treatments are recommended for all forms of conjunctivitis. Gentle eye cleaning and cold compresses will ease discomfort, and regular hand-washing can prevent other people becoming infected. Conjunctivitis sufferers should use their own towels and tissues at times, and contact lenses must be avoided (along with eye make-up) until the condition has cleared.

In the Fame

Over the years, many aspects of vision correction have changed for the better, and spectacle lenses have been at the forefront of progress. From invisible coatings to combined prescriptions, the humble lens in your glasses is now a masterpiece of design, containing innovations that would have been unimaginable to our grandparents.

Today’s spectacle lenses can easily cope with daily wear and tear. This is usually thanks to the variety (and quality) of lens coatings you can choose to apply to new glasses. Some of these transparent coatings form a barrier to harmful ultraviolet rays, while Transitions lenses react rapidly to changing levels of daylight, darkening in direct sunshine but becoming perfectly clear indoors. Similarly, anti-reflective materials can eliminate headlamp dazzle when driving at night.

Some coatings and tints also help people who suffer from medical conditions like migraines or dyslexia. Scratch-resistant coatings are an increasingly popular option when buying glasses. They help to minimise scratching, reduce damage to the lenses and complement the increasingly rugged materials used for standard, untreated lenses. Patients seeking the ultimate in durability (such as professional athletes) may wish to consider shatterproof lenses, which shrug off all types of impacts.

Today’s spectacle lenses can easily cope with daily wear and tear. This is us ally thanks to the variety (and quality) of lens coatings you can choose to apply to new glasses.

Fifty years ago, bifocal glasses had ugly dividing lines running across them, but today’s multifocal lenses can be individually designed to match your exact prescription, with minimal distortion and no sign that they contain different prescription strengths. Minimising lens thicknesses also helps to maximise style, so options like frameless glasses look good on more and more people.

It’s worth bearing in mind that these improvements in lens technology are being matched by the frames themselves. Just as modern polycarbonate lenses are ten times stronger than traditional plastic variants, flexible frames made out of robust materials like titanium can withstand all sorts of daily punishment. Call in and see us to learn more about the latest advances in lens and frame design.