In the frame

Of all the recent advances and breakthroughs in vision correction, the evolution of spectacle lenses has been especially impressive.

Chunky NHS glasses familiar in archive newsreel footage have been replaced by sophisticated and slim lenses, capable of delivering pin-sharp vision across different distances, whilst also lasting for years.

Lens manufacturers have invested heavily in developing slimmed-down products. Today’s lightweight polycarbonate and high-index plastic lenses deliver impressive vision correction with minimal use of materials, allowing them to slot neatly into slender frames or even semi-frameless spectacles. This also reduces the overall weight of the glasses, making them more comfortable to wear for long periods.

Lens coatings come in a variety of forms, all designed to improve everyday vision. Scratch resistant coatings maximise the lens’ lifespan, and water-repellent finishes reduce fogging and repel raindrops

Advances in lens technology have enabled varifocal lenses to dispense with the distinctive horizontal lines found in the bifocals familiar to our grandparents’ generation. Nowadays, it’s hard to tell whether a person’s glasses contain multiple prescriptions or not. Because they deliver clear vision at any distance, varifocal lenses are ideal for people who might otherwise need different prescription strengths for activities like driving and reading.

Anti-glare coatings help to eliminate reflections that might obscure the wearer’s eyes, such as reducing dazzle from bright lights. We look at this in more detail in our Driving in the dark article below.

Of course, choosing the right lenses for your next pair of spectacles or sunglasses depends on your unique circumstances. If you regularly attend sporting events, our ‘aspheri’ lenses are flatter and thinner giving a better field of view. Many of our thinner lenses also give full protection against UV even without any tint. If you’re an active sportsperson, tougher lens materials help to shrug off impacts in tandem with robust frames.

To find out which lens options would work best for your prescription and lifestyle, ask our team for advice. We’ll help you to see how your new glasses could deliver the best possible vision, at an affordable price.

Our ancestors used a variety of vision correction techniques. Spectacles were first developed in the late 1200s, while 19th century monocles only covered one eye. Fashionable Victorians wore pince-nez – armless spectacles clamped onto the bridge of their nose!

Driving in the dark

Because our eyes are less effective in low light, driving at night is uniquely challenging. We outline some of the ways to stay safe and optimise your vision while you’re sat behind the wheel...

Firstly, ensure every glass surface is clean, from the windows and mirrors to your spectacle lenses. Peering through layers of dust and dirt makes it harder to focus, especially in low light when our eyes are already struggling to judge depth perception and colour recognition.

Anti-reflection lens coatings are highly recommended, especially if you drive at night. They lessen reflections in the lenses from bright dials and instruments as well as from oncoming vehicle headlights

Peripheral vision also diminishes at night, so be extra vigilant at T-junctions and roundabouts. Choosing glasses with thin arms optimises your peripheral vision, call in and see our selection of stylish slimline frames.

Always ensure your headlights are on before a night journey, and don’t drive off until condensation has fully cleared. If demisters or air conditioning cause eye related discomfort, keep a bottle of soothing eye drops in your glovebox.

Fatigue is more common while driving at night, so take regular breaks so your eyes have a chance to relax. And finally, remember to turn on any traffic sign recognition technology in your vehicle – it’s so much harder to read road signs in the dark...

Through a child’s eyes

In our last newsletter, we looked at eye development in babies. Here, we consider the crucial stages of vision development throughout childhood...

By their first birthday, a young child is developing a series of interconnected sight based skills, from colour recognition to object tracking. As toddlers, this evolves into hand-eye coordination and depth perception, both of which play crucial roles in everything from learning to walk through to sporting activities. These skills will continue to improve throughout our early years.

Our eyes are instrumental in learning to read and write, as our focus switches from close objects to more distant ones and back. And while eye tests are important at any age, young children should be regularly tested to ensure they aren’t short-sighted (a degree of long-sightedness is normal). A child won’t realise that other people might be able to see things more clearly than they do, but our optometrists will be able to identify any issues and recommend appropriate courses of action.

Parents also have an important role to play, such as ensuring kids wear UV-protective sunglasses in bright outdoor conditions – for example too much ultraviolet light could cause long-term damage. If a child sits too close to a computer screen or complains about having headaches, this might also signal an issue. Knowledge of family medical histories is also important, since almost a third of genetic conditions affect our eyes.

Your questions answered

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

Q. I have both independent and chain opticians on my local high street. What benefits do independent opticians offer?

A. Every independent optician has a unique range of products and services, so one advantage is greater choice. Chain opticians tend to deliver the same generic experience and stock the same product ranges in every branch, whereas independent practices are free to decide what their local community would benefit from.

Impartial research has shown independent opticians are frequently equipped with newer testing equipment than national chains, as well as stocking a more diverse range of frames. Over the last five years, Which? has consistently said independent opticians deliver the highest levels of customer service – seeing the same opticians and optometrists on every visit gives you more consistent care. Finally, because we don’t have to meet head office sales targets, our advice is always impartial – recommending the best products for your unique circumstances.

Q. I’ve started swimming regularly, but I’m short-sighted. What vision correction options can I consider?

A. Swimming places unique strain on our eyes, as our faces are repeatedly immersed in chlorinated water. And while some people are happy to leave their glasses by the side of the pool, most of us prefer to have clear vision as we swim.

Prescription swimming goggles give you clear sight while you swim. Modern sports glasses and goggles are designed to remain in position even during strenuous activities, removing any need for contact lenses.

Whichever option you choose, we’d recommend washing your face straight after swimming. Also, use eye drops to alleviate any dryness or irritation caused by chemicals in the water.

Q. I’ve just been diagnosed with diabetes. Is this likely to have an impact on my vision?

A. Providing you look after yourself and follow medical advice, the effects should be minimal. Three million people in the UK have diabetes, which occurs when the body struggles to regulate its blood sugar levels, and the vast majority of diabetes patients lead normal healthy lives. An early diagnosis is vital though; many people don’t realise blurred vision, excessive thirst or constant fatigue are common symptoms of diabetes.

Careful management of blood sugar levels helps to reduce the risk of related conditions like diabetic retinopathy, where blood vessels in the eyes become damaged by excessive levels of glucose. However, regular sight tests are crucial, so we can check for early signs of retinopathy, glaucoma and cataracts. Reducing high blood pressure and avoiding cigarette smoke also helps to ensure your vision isn’t adversely affected by a diabetes diagnosis.