Eye care evolution

As we start a new decade, and this newsletter celebrates its 50th edition, it is worth taking a moment to consider just how much eye care has advanced and improved over the years…

Spectacles have been the primary method of vision correction ever since they were invented in Italy in the late 13th century. In recent years, the materials used to manufacture both frames and lenses have evolved into tougher yet lighter compounds. The result is a modern assortment of stylish and delicate-looking frames, which are robust enough to withstand significant impacts.

The chunky milk-bottle lenses of yesteryear have been replaced by much thinner lenses which give no indication of their prescription strength. Similarly, the horizontal lines visible in old bifocal lenses have been eliminated by clever manufacturing techniques. One pair of glasses can now offer multiple strengths for near, middle and distance activities – these are known as varifocals.

Many advances in eye care can’t even be seen, such as the invisible lens coatings which can protect against reflections and scratches on sunglasses and spectacles, helping more people enjoy near-perfect vision

It’s even possible to enjoy the freedom provided by varifocal contact lenses, which are equally suitable for sedentary and sporting activities. Contact lenses themselves are now more comfortable than ever, and are available in a wide variety of prescription strengths.

There have also been some significant advances in the science of calculating the unique prescription in each of your eyes. Modern optical technology also allows us to capture incredibly detailed images of your eyes, and storing these enables us to compare new images against older ones.

This can support the diagnosis of conditions which might otherwise have gone undetected for years. Other equipment in our practice is also more precise than it’s ever been before, delivering millimetre accurate facial measurements to ensure that each pair of spectacles or sunglasses fits snugly and also provides the best possible level of vision correction

The distinctive coloured iris in each of our eyes has over 200 unique characteristics, making it far more accurate than fingerprint scanners when it comes to identifying us!

Choosing frames to best suit your face shape

As one of your most prominent features, glasses are an ideal way to celebrate your personality. Many people are immediately drawn to certain frames in our display racks. However, your facial characteristics also determine whether certain frames will suit you...

Are you blessed with good eyebrows & cheekbones? Make sure you pick designs which show them off to their best effect, rather than hiding them!

  • People with smaller, petite features tend to suit circular or metal-framed glasses, whereas larger, squarer faces often benefit from chunkier designs.
  • The same is true for your skin tone, depending whether you want glasses to blend in or stand out.
  • Colourful frames might be unsuitable if you have brightly coloured eyes.
  • Take inspiration from the glasses worn by public figures. Celebrities sometimes launch a range of frames specifically designed to suit faces like their own!

When trying on frames, look for the three numbers printed inside one arm. The first figure is the lens diameter, and bigger numbers are usually better for larger faces.

Equally if you are blessed with apple cheeks and a dainty jawline, numbers below 50 tend to work best. Our staff can offer advice on choosing glasses that will perfectly complement your best features.

Driving up

There’s a lot to think about while you’re driving, which is why clear vision is so important when you’re behind the wheel.

Alongside up-to-date prescription glasses and contact lenses, there are plenty of other factors which make driving easier and more comfortable.

Sunglasses are invaluable for driving in bright conditions, reducing discomfort from reflections or low sun. They should completely cover your eyes, leaving no gaps. Thin arms on sunglasses and spectacles help to eliminate blind spots while performing manoeuvres – thick frames make it harder to see traffic and other hazards at junctions and roundabouts. Polarised lenses and invisible anti-reflective coatings help to reduce headlight dazzle and glare.

Car maintenance is crucial, too. Our eyes quickly become strained and tired when trying to focus through layers of dirt, so regular window-cleaning is vital, both inside and out. Thoroughly demist the car’s interior before driving off, regularly top up windscreen washer fluid, and replace wipers if they’re struggling to clear water off the screen.

We’d recommend keeping a lint-free spectacle cleaning cloth and a bottle of soothing eye drops in the glovebox, along with a second pair of glasses as an emergency backup. Finally, make regular stops on long journeys, focusing on objects at varying distances to reduce fatigue and minimise the risk of eye strain. If you have any worries about your vision while driving, please speak to our optometrist.

Your questions answered

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

Q. My prescription has changed, I’ve been recommended varifocal glasses for the first time. How do they work?

A. Varifocal lenses are a modern take on the bifocal lenses our grandparents wore, which had a horizontal line across the middle. These old-fashioned bifocal lenses contained two different prescription strengths, since people’s eyes often struggle to transition between near and distance vision as they get older.

Because a varifocal lens has different magnification from top to bottom, it can provide clear and sharp near, intermediate and distance vision. That means no more swapping between reading glasses and driving glasses, for instance. Lens manufacturers use clever techniques to produce thin and lightweight lenses which look almost identical to single vision prescriptions. Our optometrists can calculate which varifocal lens prescriptions will give you the best sight, and we’ll also help you to choose suitable frames.

Q. I have faint shadows slowly moving across my vision all the time. Should I be concerned?

A. What you’re seeing are floaters. In most cases, these are a harmless phenomenon which most of us will be experiencing at any given time

Our eyeballs are filled with vitreous gel, which thickens towards the retina at the back of the eye. Thicker strands of gel occasionally break off and float through the thinner fluid. As light hits them, these spots and worm-like strands cast faint shadows onto our retinas.

Floaters respond to eye movements, and inertia keeps them in motion even when you’re looking straight ahead. If they suddenly increase in activity, or become much darker, make an appointment to see us immediately, so we can examine your retinas for possible damage.

Q. My new job involves working outdoors, and my glasses are constantly getting dirty. What are the best ways to keep the lenses clean and in good condition?

A. There are two parts to this – maintenance and prevention. If you’re happy with your existing glasses, good housekeeping will keep them in optimal condition. Carry a microfibre spectacle cleaning cloth with you, and gently wipe each lens on both sides – never use shirt sleeves, or abrasive materials like tissues or kitchen roll.

You can wash dirt off with warm water, while using a lens cleaning spray ensures you’ll be able to enjoy crystal-clear vision. Ask one of our staff about cleaning sprays during your next appointment or check-up.

If you’re planning to order new glasses, scratch-resistant coatings help to protect the lenses. Water-repellent coatings will chase away raindrops, preventing fogging up on cold days and reducing the need to wipe them clean.