Vision correction for active lifestyles

Active lifestyles place unique demands on our eyewear, and the perfect frames for a day in the office might not be suitable for mountain biking, hiking, golf or five-a-side football.

If your weekends involve personal bests rather than box sets, dedicated sports eyewear could be as important as supportive trainers or a workout playlist. Contact lenses are ideally suited to physical or outdoor activities and today’s lenses are more comfortable than ever. Prescription goggles are ideal for swimming, providing clear vision and protecting the eyes from waterborne contaminants and bacteria.

Sports frames can be adjusted in our practice to ensure a perfect fit – they should ideally wrap around your face, to provide a wide field of vision without any awkward blind spots. (Full-face frames will also block out dust and rain). Look at the eyewear worn by top athletes for inspiration, and ask our advice about optimal choices for your sporting or lifestyle preferences. Despite being made out of lightweight materials, polycarbonate lenses shrug off impacts from flying objects. Polarized lenses reduce glare from lights or reflections, while photochromic lenses automatically darken in bright conditions and give 100 per cent UV protection for outdoor use. Finally, scratch-resistant coatings are great for sports where you might be in direct contact with the elements.

Ten things you didn’t know about the human eye

The human eye is a remarkably complex organ so regular eye tests are vital for monitoring sight levels, which we discuss in more detail in the next article. Any changes in your quality of vision can easily be corrected with prescription spectacles, sunglasses or contact lenses

Each component plays a key role in achieving optimal levels of sight, enabling us to focus on objects and track their movement through varying light levels. To showcase this incredible feat of nature, here are ten things you may not know about your eyes...

1 The iris in each eye has 256 distinct characteristics, making it completely unique. Just like fingerprints, iris scans are increasingly being used to confirm our identities.

2 Our eyes can distinguish ten million colours within the visible light spectrum. Infra-red and ultraviolet wave lengths represent the points where we can’t see any longer.

3 After the brain, our eyes are our most complex organs. They provide so much sensory information that the majority of brain capacity is dedicated to sight-related functions.

4 Although newborn babies have poor colour vision and can’t focus, their eyes will have grown less than any other body part by the time they reach adulthood.

5 A condition called heterochromia means some people are born with different-coloured irises. This condition is also found in cats and dogs, but it has no effect on sight levels or eye health.

6 Brown-eyed people get drunk more quickly. Research indicates darker irises contain higher levels of a pigment called melanin, which lowers a person’s alcohol tolerance.

7 A gene found in the male X chromosome means one in twelve men suffers a degree of colour blindness. This often manifests as difficulty distinguishing between certain shades of red and green.

8 The red-eye effect in flash photography is caused by a burst of light bouncing off our retinas, where it illuminates blood vessels contained within this dense tissue.

9 Our eyes struggle to focus through layers of dust or dirt on spectacle lenses, windows and computer screens. A film of dirt may cause eye strain, tiredness or headaches.

10 The eyelid is the fastest muscle in our bodies, capable of blinking five times in a single second. However, we tend to blink once every five seconds on average.

If you have any concerns about your sight, do not hesitate to make an appointment with an optometrist in our practice for advice and recommendations.

The links between eye health and nutrition

Diet plays a key role in maintaining physical health, and a diet packed with fruit and vegetables helps our eyes to function optimally. Experts recommend foods rich in zinc or vitamin E, which is present in almonds and pecans. Nuts also contain the same omega 3 fatty acids found in oily fish, boosting protection against dry eyes and degenerative conditions.

Lutein and zeaxanthin are prevalent in spinach and kale, helping to absorb damaging light rays as they reach our retinas and lenses. Following studies into age-related eye diseases, it’s believed these pigments play a role in slowing the development of age-related macular degeneration. The human body can’t manufacture lutein, but it’s easily absorbed.

Other eye-friendly foodstuffs include dairy produce. Egg yolks contain cornea-protecting vitamin A plus zinc, which contributes to healthy retinas and effective night vision. Consuming milk and yoghurt also boosts our intake of these vitamins and trace elements. Red wine contains antioxidants that can help protect the retinas from cell damage, though moderation is obviously important! And while the grapes used to create red wine are packed with antioxidants, oranges and grapefruit contain generous amounts of vitamin C. This maintains healthy blood vessels, and lowers the risk of cataracts forming.

Your questions answered

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

Q. I’ve been told I have astigmatism in one eye. What does this mean?

A. Normally, our eyes are spherical, like a football. Astigmatism is the word used to describe a slightly more rugby-ball shaped eye.

It’s not a disease or health problem, and millions of people grow up with astigmatism without even realising.

Although our optometrists can identify astigmatism as part of a normal eye test, you won’t spot it in a mirror! It diminishes the eye’s ability to focus light accurately, but this can easily be resolved with vision correction products.

Toric contact lenses help to compensate by bending light more in one direction than the other. We have plenty of spectacle lenses capable of correcting any distortion caused by an imperfectly shaped lens or cornea.

Q. I’ve just accepted a new job, which involves lots of driving. What can I do to improve my night vision while I’m at the wheel?

A. Driving in the dark brings unique challenges, since low light reduces our depth perception and peripheral vision. It’s harder to identify potential hazards and road markings, forcing us to concentrate more intently.

Our ability to see in the dark deteriorates with age, underlining the importance of having regular eye tests.

Ensure your windscreen is always clear, eliminating layers of dirt or condensation that could lead to tiredness and headaches. Try to break up long journeys with brief pit stops, giving your eyes a moment to unfocus and relax.

We’d also recommend purchasing spectacle lenses with an anti-glare coating, which reduces reflections caused by streetlights or passing traffic.

Q. What styles or features should I look for when buying glasses for my teenage child?

A. Teenagers aren’t famed for their delicacy, so we’d always recommend picking robust frames and lenses. Frames with a degree of natural flexibility are ideal, so they’ll absorb the impact of being dropped or knocked.

Frames are more stylish than ever, but give your child a say – he or she will be wearing them every day! We make sure each lens is central over their eyes, so they won’t be peering around or over the frames.

Lenses with scratch resistant coatings help to protect against active lifestyles and general clumsiness, while anti-glare films prevent reflections from artificial light or computer screens. And since children are notorious for losing things, why not invest in a second pair of frames as a backup?