Autumn 2006

Welcome to our autumn practice newsletter. In this issue we have articles on Choosing New Spectacles - help in choosing the right frames and lenses for your new spectacles, Understanding Cataracts - help in understanding cataracts, Good Nutrition for Healthy Vision - showing how nutrition affects your vision, as well an update on the work of Vision Aid Overseas, a charity supported at the practice.

Choosing new spectacles

Without help, choosing new spectacles can be a daunting prospect but our qualified advice and experience can assist you to select a pair which complement you and give you the quality of vision you need. We can help you to look your best.

Balanced choices

The appearance, comfort and feel of new spectacles depend as much on the lenses you choose as the style of the frame. It is important to select frames which will be suitable and complement the lenses you need, and vice versa.

Today's spectacles utilise the latest manufacturing technologies to best advantage to produce a wide selection of frame materials and lenses. For example, titanium is particularly popular for frames because it is extremely lightweight, very durable and strong. Titanium and nickel-free alloys have the added bonus of being hypoallergenic.

Advanced materials and processes create lenses which are much lighter too, giving a greater range of choice and comfort, even if you have a higher prescription.

Selecting your frames

lady wearing spectacles

The type of frame you wear can say a lot about your personality. Rimless or thin minimalist frames make your spectacles as invisible as possible, helping to retain your natural look. A heavy, dark frame on the other hand may suggest you are serious and confident, whilst a brightly coloured frame could indicate you are outgoing.

We can advise you on the shape, style and fit of the spectacles (most frames are available in a range of sizes to ensure comfort). However, it is often useful to bring someone who knows you to help you choose the frames.

Selecting your lenses

man wearing spectacles

There are many lens manufacturers, each trying to make lenses, thinner, lighter and more resistant to wear and tear. Certain types and finishes of lenses are particularly suitable for different working conditions or leisure activities. Advanced plastic materials mean that lenses are better able to cope with the rigours of everyday wear and lighter too.

This allows much more freedom of choice even if you have a higher prescription. If you enjoy participating in sports then polycarbonate lenses could be good choice for you as they are highly impact-resistant, thin and light. An anti-reflective coating is especially useful for reducing glare - from car headlights when driving at night or from your computer screen if you are a regular VDU user. Whether your need is for lightweight, impact-resistant, UV-blocking, tinted, anti-reflective, polarised or a combination of all of these benefits, we can advise you on the best lens for your needs.

Spectacles for all occasions

Your spectacles can help to convey the image you want to portray. A smart, efficient look can be perfect for work, but you may prefer a more informal style for other social situations. Do you want to coordinate the colour of your frames with your clothes and other accessories?

If you have never considered using different spectacles for different occasions, bear in mind that we can provide prescription sunglasses, specialist sports spectacles, safety eyewear or just a different style for a different mood. We look forward to helping you select the spectacles that are right for you.

Understanding cataracts

man with spectacles

The most common symptoms of cataracts are:

  • painless blurred or cloudy vision
  • dazzle or glare in brightly lit rooms or sunlight
  • halo round lights, such as car headlamps or street lights
  • poor vision in the dark, which may cause difficulty with driving
  • double vision in the early stages
  • colours which seem faded or difficult to differentiate
  • the need for frequent changes in spectacles or contact lens prescription

It is worth noting that these symptoms can also be signs of other eye problems. If you have any of them you should come along for an eye examination

Cataract formation is largely age-related

About two thirds of people over 50 have some degree of cataract which may gradually worsen over the years. Cataracts occur more commonly in women than men and are generally thought to be hereditary - so it is important to be aware of your family history. The condition sometimes affects younger people as a result of injuries, diabetes, other longstanding eye problems or certain medications such as steroids or radiotherapy. More rarely a cataract can be present from birth and will be removed at a very early stage to allow the baby's vision to develop normally.

What is a cataract?

eye examination

A cataract is not a 'skin' which forms over the eye as some people misapprehend; it is a gradual change in the structure of the lens. The lens is situated behind the coloured iris and its function is to help focus the light entering your eye on the retina at the back of the eye. Cataracts develop when the normally transparent lens in the eye becomes cloudy or opaque, and may make the black pupil appear grey or very pale. Cataracts cannot be spread from one eye to the other, but they often occur in both eyes to different degrees.

The condition progresses gradually and painlessly, affecting a small part of the lens, or can develop to affect the whole lens.

It will have an increasing impact on vision and so it is important to start to manage it as soon as possible. If left untreated cataracts can eventually cause blindness.

Symptoms

The first signs of cataract may be noticing your vision becoming slightly blurred or hazy, a bit like looking through a mist or frosted glass. You may start to feel your spectacles need cleaning more frequently. Other indicators may be lights appearing too bright, harsher glare from headlights while driving at night, double vision or reduced contrast in colours. If you suffer from any of these symptoms, you should visit us to have the cause investigated by our optometrist. The symptoms may indicate other eye problems, but regular eye examinations can detect and identify the cause and early treatment can be started to correct your vision and save your sight.

What causes age-related cataracts?

Despite extensive research, the cause of cataract formation is still not clear. It is generally thought to be linked to changes in the supply of nutrients to the lens, which are exacerbated with age. Some recognised risk factors which may increase the likelihood of cataract development include poor diet, medical condition such as diabetes and lifestyle choices such as smoking or heavy drinking. Researchers have also found that exposure to strong sunlight speeds up the progression of cataracts, so wearing sunglasses is especially important to stop harmful ultra-violet radiation reaching your eyes. Anti-glare sunglasses are recommended.

Available treatment

In the early stages, you may be unaware of having cataracts if the cloudiness does not significantly affect your vision. However our optometrist can easily detect the condition during routine eye examination, so regular checks are important. We can sort out any visual problems with spectacles or contact lenses in the initial phase. We can also give advice on visual aids such as magnifiers and the use of appropriate lighting.

If deterioration in your eyesight starts to affect your daily life in simple tasks such as reading, cooking, watching television or driving, then further treatment is needed.

The most efficient treatment is an operation to remove the cloudy lens and replace it with a new clear artificial one known as an intraocular lens, or IOL. Once the IOL is in place it is part of your eye and requires no adjustment or extra care.

This common surgery is a quick and relatively pain-free procedure; usually conducted under local anesthetic on a 'day case' outpatient basis. In the UK alone, over 200,000 operations are performed each year with great success. The operation usually takes about half an hour; a temporary protective pad may be provided to guard against accidental knocks or rubbing immediately afterwards, and eye drops should be used for a few days to reduce inflammation and prevent infection.

Many patients notice an immediate improvement in their vision, although complete healing may take several weeks. Revised spectacles are often needed particularly for reading, after the eye has settled for a few weeks. The surgeon will advise how long to wait before asking your optometrist to prescribe new lenses.

Help yourself

Some simple changes in your lifestyle can help to reduce your risk of developing cataracts or to slow down their progression. Wear sunglasses to block our harmful UVA and UVB rays. Smoking produces free radicals which can harm your eyes and damage the absorption of vitamins and minerals in your diet. Stopping smoking and eating a healthy, balanced diet are sensible not only for your eyes but for your general well being.

Good nutrition for healthy vision

Eat your greens... and reds, yellows, purples, as well as oranges! Good nutrition and a balanced diet are essential to your health and development at all stages of your life. Absorbing the right mix of nutrients aids the body to grow and function properly, protects against infection and helps in maintaining a full active life. In many countries of the world, this can be difficult to achieve, but the huge range of foodstuffs now readily available gives our western society every opportunity to benefit from a healthy diet.

Increased emphasis on health and food education aims to tackle problems associated with obesity, teach practical skills and promote a healthy lifestyle. The accent is variety and balance to ensure a good supply of nutrients, vitamins and minerals. These not only provide sustenance but help to protect against disease, environmental factors and effects of ageing.

eye examination

Exercise and good nutrition promote general health and fitness and reduce the risks of physical diseases and disorders, many of which affect the quality of your vision.

Essential vitamins, minerals and other micronutrients help combat damage from 'free radicals' and the effects of smoking, pollution and sunlight. Increasing your consumption of fruit and vegetables, which are also high in fibre and low in fat, is one of the easiest ways to ensure a good intake of vitamins and minerals. Fresh, tinned, dried or frozen, these foods are particularly rich in vitamins A, C and E and also contain supplies of carotenoids and bioflavonoids, enzymes which have strong antioxidant properties.

Most citrus and soft fruits, jiuces and vegetables are good sources of vitamin C, which is vital to your immune system, but cannot be stored by the body. Nuts, vegetable oils, eggs and fish are full of vitamin E. Dairy products, liver, eggs and carrots contain vitamin A; beta-catotene is present in apricots, peaches, carrots, sweet potatoes and pink grapefruit. Tomatoes and red fruits contain another powerful antioxidant lycopene. Generally the brightest coloured fruit and vegetables, such as oranges, grapes, blueberries are rich in bioflavonoids.

Dark green leafy vegetables - like kale, spinach and broccoli - are the main source of lutein and another beneficial carotenoid called zeaxanthin; other good sources include sweetcorn, red and orange peppers and tangerines. Research studies show that these elements may help to prevent or retard the progress of AMD and cataracts, the leading causes of blindness and visual impairment today.

Minerals such as zinc, selenium and manganese are found in seafood, cereals, pulses, nuts and seeds. Other nutrients such as folic acid (vitamin B9) and omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish improve blood flow, which has a beneficial effect on the macula and retina of the eye.

The recommended intake of trace elements (vitamins and minerals) depends on gender, age and lifestyle. The ability to obtain or absorb adequate supplies can be negatively influenced by factors such as alcohol, smoking or illness. Where diet alone is not an adequate source, a range of nutritional supplements is available, specifically aimed at improving the health of your eyes. However, if you are taking any medication you should also consult your GP before changing your diet. Our optometrist will be able to advise you on how to take best care of your eyes.

Vision Aid Overseas

child wearing spectacles Vision Aid Overseas logo

Poverty and the lack of skilled opticians affect millions of people who do not have the spectacles they desperately need. For those in the developing world with poor vision, education and employment are out of reach. Many find daily living difficult and dangerous.

With the correct spectacles, people can learn, work and achieve a quality of life otherwise completely unobtainable. Hense the need for charities like VAO .

Vision Aid Overseas is a charity dedicated to helping people in the developing world whose lives are blighted by poor eyesight, particularly where spectacles can help. The charity sends abroad teams of volunteer optometrists and dispensing opticians who set up clinics, screen large numbers of patients and provide appropriate spectacles

Since its foundation in 1985, Vision Aid Overseas has provided 500,000 eye tests and given 250,000 people the ability to see with a pair of spectacles.

Looking ahead to the rest of the year, VAO has 24 projects planned during 2007 and hopes to reach over 30,000 people. It is also determined to expand its training and workshop activity.

If you would like more information about the work of Vision Aid Overseas please visit their website www.vao.org.uk for more information or call 01293 535 016.

Vision Aid Overseas is a registered charity (in England) no. 1081695.

Sight Care logo

Our plege to you ...

The prestigious Sight Care symbol you will see in this practice means that we are your local independent optician with an agreed standard of care.

We are committed to providing:

  • a comprehensive eye examination including screening and diagnostic tests and referrals for medical care if necessary
  • advice on eye health and safety at work and play
  • information on visual development of children
  • a copy of your spectacle and contact lens prescription
  • spectacles dispensed by qualified staff
  • expert advice on frames and lenses to suit your needs
  • a 12-month guarantee against faulty manufacture on all our spectacles