Short days, long nights

Because the UK is closer to the North Pole than the Equator, there are significant variations in the length of our days and nights. These seasonal changes pose a variety of vision-related challenges, which might affect your optimal choice of eyewear.

Low sun The sun is lower in the sky between late autumn and early spring, often shining directly into your eyes. Our sunglasses will reduce dazzle, as well as protecting against harmful ultraviolet light.

Changes from day to night Photochromic lenses graduate their tint according to the amount of light reaching them. They’re very effective as ambient light levels drop, which is also useful when moving between indoor and outdoor environments.

Reflections Wet or snowy surfaces reflect sunshine that causes people to squint and experience discomfort. Polarising lenses lower the risk of headaches from sun glare by reducing reflections, which is especially beneficial for activities on water.

Take care in the dark Low light levels reduce depth perception and colour recognition. These changes may really affect everything from reaction times to fatigue levels, so give yourself (and your eyes) regular breaks.

Winter sports provide a perfect example of how important appropriate eyewear can be. Skiers and snowboarders often wear dedicated sports eyewear with lightweight polycarbonate lenses.

These shatterproof lenses typically come with scratch-resistant coatings for added durability, and protect against reflections and UV light.

Whether you’re choosing sports eyewear or normal sunglasses, ensure each pair of frames fully covers your eyes without any gaps, to prevent sunshine getting through.

Levels of UVA and UVB light actually increase in snowy conditions or high altitudes, so suitable protection is still important in winter. Our range of sunglasses lenses will block both types of UV rays.

Eyelids are the fastest-moving muscles in the human body. They are capable of blinking five times in a single second.

They stop our eyes from drying out, while eyelashes protect against perspiration and foreign bodies like dust.

The beauty of choosing an independent optician

Independent opticians are hugely diverse, and each practice is a unique entity reflecting the values and enthusiasm of its owners.

Unlike some of the larger optical companies, we don’t have sales targets imposed by a distant head office. Having the freedom to run our own business means we can take the time to understand you and your eye care needs.

Having the choice of appointments with the same optician every time enables us to get to know you better, helping us to care for your eyes more effectively. As an independent optician we are frequently better equipped than chain rivals, and national companies struggle to match our sophisticated new equipment or diverse product ranges. Because we’re not tied to any suppliers or committed to selling particular ranges, we can stock and recommend the products that are best for you.

It’s no surprise that Which? magazine rated independent opticians as the top optical provider for customer satisfaction in its two most recent industry surveys. Independent practices provide a level of care and continuity that many of the larger companies couldn’t hope to match.

Finally, there’s one huge advantage in trusting your vision to an independent optician – we have time for you. With our skills and knowledge, we spend however long it takes to ensure your vision is as clear and healthy as possible. Your eyes deserve nothing less.

The colour and the shape

Colour blindness is a surprisingly common condition, and around 2.7 million people in the UK struggle to tell certain shades apart. Since our brains are capable of identifying up to ten million colours, it’s not always obvious that we see shades and tones differently to others.

Colour blindness was identified as a condition by 18th century scientist John Dalton, who shared with his brother a real difficulty distinguishing between shades of red and green.

This is the most common form of colour blindness. The colour-processing cones in our retinas respond to (and distinguish between) red, green and blue light. Because our brains translate light signals into colours, two people might interpret the same hue differently.

Colour blindness is usually inherited, so checking your family’s medical history is useful. It may also be caused by later-life health conditions like cataracts or optic nerve damage, while certain medications can cause mild colour vision deficiencies.

Colour perception is vital for some careers. Bright lighting around the home and workplace also helps with colour distinction, while smartphone apps like Color Blind Pal can assist with colour identification.

Your questions answered

In a regular column, we offer expert advice on common vision-related questions...

Q. I’ve recently started wearing contact lenses, but I was told never to use tap water to clean the lenses. Why not?

A. The contact lens cleaning solutions we recommend to our patients are specially formulated to replicate the moisture that occurs naturally in our eyes. These solutions match the pH of healthy tears, as well as containing lubricants found in our eyes. Most importantly, they are ideal for disinfecting lenses and removing any deposits.

Water has none of these qualities. Although it’s perfectly safe to drink, tap water is not sterile. It will contain impurities and micro-organisms that shouldn’t be allowed to soak into contact lenses. Without the chemical constituents of lens cleaning solutions, bacteria could build up and risk serious infections. Lens solutions will also keep lenses moist for longer, improving eye comfort and reducing dryness.

Q. Is my vision good enough for driving?

A. The DVLA will allow you to drive at any age, providing you still have reasonable reaction times and clear eyesight. Even glaucoma or a cataract won’t be a problem, providing the two eyes together give good clarity and a wide field of vision.

If you can read a modern number plate from 20 metres, you meet the most basic DVLA standard of vision for driving. However, regular eye tests are crucial to ensure the full standard is still being met. For older drivers, it’s vital to ensure your glasses or contact lenses correct short and long-distance vision. Multifocal lenses may be advisable, since driving involves a great deal of looking from the dashboard to the road and back. Field of vision tests are also important – we can easily test your peripheral vision during an eye examination.

Q. My new job involves a lot of computer use, and I’ve started getting headaches. Should I be worried?

A. Regular headaches could indicate a problem with your vision. Our eyes weren’t designed to stare at a screen all day, and excessive screen time frequently causes dry eyes and tiredness. Eyestrain is often a precursor of headaches. Try to blink regularly and give your eyes a minute or two a few times an hour where they can focus on something distant.

If the headaches persist, we’d recommend a thorough eye examination to identify potential VDU-related issues. You might simply need prescription glasses or contact lenses to use a computer all day in comfort.