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The chunky milk-bottle lenses of yesteryear have been replaced by much thinner lenses which give no indication of their prescription strength.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.

A macula conception

Few people know about the crucial role played by the macula in helping us to see clearly. This small area in the middle of the retina is in charge of our central vision, processing sharp details while we look directly at something, such as while reading or writing. However, the macula’s delicate cells can become damaged and worn out as we get older

This is a process known as age-related macular degeneration, or AMD. It affects over 600,000 people in the UK, mostly over the age of 50, and becomes more common as we get older. Yet because our peripheral vision isn’t usually affected by AMD, it can be hard to identify without regular eye tests.

There are two main types of macular degeneration – wet and dry. The former occurs when blood vessels under the macula start leaking, whereas the more common dry type involves a build-up of cellular debris. Both eyes can be affected, but one eye tends to develop blurred vision or an expanding dark spot first. People might also see straight lines as slightly wavy, find themselves becoming more sensitive to light, or struggle to recognise faces and pick out particular colours. They may become more reliant on bright lighting and magnifying lenses.

There are plenty of things everyone can do to reduce the risk of developing AMD. These include not smoking, taking regular exercise, and maintaining healthy levels of cholesterol and blood pressure.

Eating a diet rich in fruit and vegetables helps to ward off macular degeneration, and so does wearing sunglasses in bright conditions. These tips are particularly important for people with a family history of macular degeneration, as they’ll have a higher risk of developing AMD themselves.

Our optometrists can help with the diagnosis of AMD, using techniques including OCT scans. This quick and painless process maps any changes taking place in the macula from one eye examination to the next, allowing us to identify and manage the condition at an early stage. We can also help to draw up treatment plans to stop any further deterioration. For instance, with wet AMD, it’s often possible to stop blood vessels from causing further damage to the macula.

Because it’s painless and generally develops gradually over a period of months or years, AMD is often diagnosed during routine eye tests. This underlines the importance of regular eye examinations, especially as we grow older.