Autumn 2007

Welcome to our autumn practice newsletter. In this issue we have an article Looking after the future to let you know all about children’s vision. Understanding Age-related Macular Degeneration which tells you about this eye condition, and how to reduce the risk of it affecting your sight. Are contact lenses right for you? will help you see if contact lenses are an option for you. There is also an update on the work of Vision Aid Overseas, a charity supported at the practice.

Looking after the future

young girl wearing spectacles

Children's general development and learning skills can be hindered by undiagnosed or uncorrected sight defects, so early and regular eye examinations are essential to give them the best chance in life.

The sooner the better

Clinical visual development takes place in children earlier than most parents imagine - between six months and three years of age. During this time, good sight and co-ordination are consolidated. Some specialists recommend bringing children in for regular eye checks from the age of six months. Many defects such as long or short-sightedness, a squint or astigmatism can be inherited.

Most problems can be effectively treated the earlier they are identified. It is not necessary to wait until a child is able to recognise letters on a conventional sight test chart.

Special measurements and picture tests have been developed which can be used to check the sight of babies and toddlers.

In the schoolroom

At school some children may be wrongly identified as slow learners or even dyslexic when in fact their behaviour may be influenced by an undetected visual problem. Classroom activities involve studying textbooks, gazing at computer screens, and looking at black or whiteboards, and require good short, middle and long distance vision. However, children can be very clever at hiding problems with their sight, or often they may not realise that there is something wrong.

Do they have a short attention span for reading or written work? When reading, do they frequently lose their place, skip or re-read words, or even whole lines, unknowingly? Do they fidget, complain of tiredness, or disrupt the class rather than concentrate on their schoolwork? Do they work in an odd position when sitting at a desk, or tilt their head extremely when reading across a page?

These are a number of signs which could indicate that your child is experiencing difficulties with their vision.

Whilst doctors and health visitors carry out vision screening checks, only a comprehensive eye examination by an Optometrist will give an accurate assessment.

Establish a routine of eye examinations - at least every two years.

Specs for kids

If your child needs vision correction, a wide range of frames and lenses is available. They are specially designed for smaller facial propotions, with adjustable nose pads and flexible spring hinges for comfort and strength. Polycarbonate lenses, which are more shatter resistant, are recommended for increased sagely and anti-scratch soatings are available for extra durability.

Today's frames are stylish and attractive. Our professional service will ensure that the spectacles fit properly and comfortably.

Alternatively, there is also the option of contact lenses. These are not usually prescribed for young children because of the need for delicate and careful handling. However, older children and teenagers are capable of wearing and caring for contact lenses, and often benefit from increased confidence in social and sporting situations.

Taking care

Do not assume that your child's sight will be checked school. The quality and frequency of vision screening programmes in schools vary throughout the UK. A regular full eye examination by our qualified Optometrist will help protect your child against visual handicap. Under the NHS children are entitled to free eye examinations up to the age of 16, or 19 in full-time education.

Changes in visual acuity can occur gradually, so it is advisable to establish a routine of eye examinations - at least every two years - throughout childhood, and to set a pattern of good eye care for life.

girl blowing bubbles

Some signs for parents to look out for:

In infants

  • Frequent rubbing of the eyes
  • Discomfort in bright light
  • Watery eyes
  • One eye bigger than the other
  • eyes turning in, or out (a squint)
  • A red spot in one eye

In pre-schoolers

  • Holding books very close
  • Sitting too close to the television
  • Red eyes or sore-looking eyelids
  • Blinking a lot or screwing up the eyes
  • Short attention span
  • Difficulty with eye-hand-body co-ordination

In older children

  • Uncomfortable eyes or headaches
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Tilting the head to read with one eye only
  • Frequent reversals of words when reading or writing
  • Complaints of words moving around when reading
  • Avoid reading or writing whenever they can

Understanding Age-related Macular Degeneration

The macula is a small area of the ritina at the back of the eye which is responsible for what we see straight in front of us. Age-related Macular Degeneration destroys the clear central vision necessary for reading, driving, watching television and doing close detailed work. It can make performing the daily tasks we take for granted very difficult - even goung up and down stairs safely can be a problem.

Types of AMD

Macular disease is rare in young people and attributes to genetic disorder. The most common form of macular degeneration is age-related and is the leading cause of blindness in over 50s in the UK affecting over half a million people. Essentially there are two types of AMD , referred to as wet or dry.

Dry AMD , which accounts for about 90% of cases, develops gradually over time. Small fatty deposits, called drusen, accumulate in the retinal tissue under the macula; resultant visual impairment is related to their location and extent.

Dry AMD usually affects both eyes; one may be affected long before the other, making the condition less noticable in the early stages as the 'good' eye compensates for the deterioration of the other. Regular monitoring of your vision by your optometrist is important as a vital health check. It is possible for the dry form to suddenly turn into wet AMD.

Wed AMD is more aggressive and rapid form of the disease, and can develop over a few weeks. It is caused by the growth of abnormal blood vessels under the retina. These can bleed and leak fluid, causing scarring and destruction of cells in the macula and resulting in loss of central vision.

Symptoms

with normal vison with age-related macular degeneration

AMD is not painful although it may occasionally cause discomfort. In early stages, central vision may become blurred or distorted. Every day objects may look an unusual shape or size and straight lines may appear wavy or fuzzy. If these symptoms appear suddenly you should consult your Optometrist or Doctor. Some people with AMD may become very sensitive to light or see lights, shapes and colours which are not there. It can be difficult to distinguish low contrast patterns or shades of colour. Those with advanced disease will often notice a blank patch or a dark spot in the centre of their sight.

This makes reading, writing and recognising facial features very difficult.

The causes of AMD are not currently known, but a number of influencing factors have been identified.

  • Age - this is the main risk factor and increases with advancing years.
  • Gender - women seem to be more susceptible than men.
  • Eye colour - people with blue or light-coloured eyes may be more likely to develop the condition.
  • Genetics - research shows that certain genes can be inherited which may increase the risk of developing AMD .

Such aspects cannot be altered, but other lifestyle adjustments are within our personal control.

  • Exposure to UV light - wear a wide brimmed hat and well-fitting sunglasses to protect your eyes against damage from sunlight; ensure your spectacles or contact lenses have a UV filter.
  • Smoking - studies show a correlation between smoking, which interferes with the absorption of important antioxidants, and development of macular degeneration; stopping smoking can reduce the risk significantly.
  • Nutrition - A balanced diet low in saturated fats but high in fruit and vegetables is essential to your well-being. Some studies have shown benegicial changes from eating oily fish, dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale, and brightly coloured fruits and vegetables. There are also special mutritional supplements containging lutein and zeaxanthin for preserving the health of your eyes.

Living with AMD

Early detection is essential to ensure the best outcome, so regular eye examinations are recommended. There is currently no cure for AMD , but new therapies are becoming available which may prevent or slow its progression.

Laser treatments or anti-VEGF drug injections may be used in some cases of wet AMD , though the latter course of treatment is not normally available through the NHS .

Although the condition can limit everyday activity, it rarely leads to total blindness; patients usually keep sufficient peripheral or side vision to retain their mobility and independence. Low vision services can give advice and training on simple ways to make the most of remaining sight.

Some opticians specialise in low vision work. A number of Social Services departments have Rehabilitation Officers who advice people with registered sight problems. Help is also available from charities such as The Royal National Institute of the Blind and Birmingham Focus on Blindness. Birmingham Focus can be contacted on 0121 478 5200 or www.birminghamfocus.org.uk.

Are contact lenses right for you?

Contact lenses are very thin small diameter optical discs; they are positioned over the cornea of theyee and are kept in the place by the eye's own natural tear film. Modern technological advances mean that today's lenses are more comfortable, affordable and easy to wear than ever and are available to cater for most common vision conditions.

If you are considering contact lenses you will need to allow more time than usual for the initial consultation.

Our professionally trained practitioner will examine and measure your eyes to ensure that your lenses are properly prescribed for optimum fit and comfort.

about to insert a contact lens

Types of lenses

Scientific advances in material and manufacture mean that, apart from certain specialised cases, the original type of hard lens has now been superceded by lenses which are gas permeable. This allows a good sully of oxygen to the eye.

Today's lenses are mainly classified into two broad types - RGP and soft. The latter are very thin, comfortable and easy to adapt to and constitute the majority of contact lenses fitted nowadays.

Rigid Gas Permeable (RGP) lenses are made of special firmer plastics, which are permeable to oxygen. These lenses are very durable and usually have a longer life span than soft lenses; many people find them easier to handle. Like soft lenses, RGP lenses will fit well and offer excellent visual acuity; they are often prescribed for people who have high degrees of astigmatism. They may take a little longer to get used to, but regular wearers find them very comfortable.

The majority of contact lenses are worn on a daily basis. They are taken out at night, cleaned and disinfected, storee in solution overnight, and put back in the following morning. Disposable contact lenses, as their name suggests, are warn for a prescribed period of time and then thrown away and replaced with a new pair. Daily disposables are particularly convenient for occasional wear or if you are travelling away from home as there is no cleaning involved.

The latest developments in lens materials and technology provide a higher moisture content and an increased level of oxygen for the eye, enabling extended wear contact lenses to be worn for several days, or up to a month before removal. Your contact lens practitioner can discuss the benefits and risks of continuous wear lenses and assess your suitability.

Vision correction

There are contact lenses for most common vision problems. Whenever you are short-sighted, young or older, with our advice you can probably wear some type of contact lens from the choices available. Many have a built-in UV (ultra violet) filter to help protect your eyes against bright sunlight.

Until recently, many people with astigmatism were limited to spectables to correct the distortion in their vision caused by an irregularly shaped cornea. However today a wide range of astigmatism can be corrected with the increased availability of toric contact lenses. They are made to more detailed individual specification, using additional measurements taken during eye examinations.

As we get older, our eyes lose their ability to shift focus between near and far objects, a natural aging process called presbyopia. As an alternative to wearing glasses for reading, there is now opportunity to correct the condition using multifocal or bifocal contact lenses. This is particularly good news for those who are used to waring contact lenses.

Lifestyle

Contact lenses are particularly helpful for people with an active lifestyle. Because they rest on the eye surface, they give greatly improved all-round vision. They are well suited to sporting activities - unlike spectacles they won't slip off even in the toughest game, race or match - and are more managable in adverse weather conditions. They really help with hobbies such as bird watching or photography - contact lenses don't cause adjestment problems when you are using binoculars, a camera or a telescope. If you require eye protection - for example when swimming or skiing - standard specification goggles can replace expensive prescription ones.

Even if you do not need vision correction, you can change your image by completely changing the colour of your eyes, or subtly enhancing their natural shade. Coloured contact lenses can give you a new look for a special occasion, withour affecting what you see; funky designs are available for fun party wear.

We can give expert advice on suitability of contact lenses for your eyes, as a convenient alternative to spectacles or for everyday wear. Why not contact us to arrange a professional fitting and trial wear to see which lenses will suit your lifestyle best?

Vision Aid Overseas

child having eye examination Vision Aid Overseas logo

Vision Aid Overseas is a charity whose mission is to provide eyecare to needy people in the developing world. VAO sends teams of volunteer optometrists and dispensing opticians from the UK to some of the poorest countries in the world to help educate and train local community workers in eyecare skills, to set up clinics and dispense spectacles.

Project team memebers and supporters engage in fund raising activities to raise much needy finance. This enables them to travel to often remote rural locations where optical services do not exist. The work they do there, screening many hundreds of people and providing equipment and appropriate spectacles to correct vision deficiencies, can transform lives.

man wearing spectacles with an aid worker

So far 2007 has been an exceptionally busy year for the charity. The number of spectacles dispensed by volunteers has increased dramatically and the number of patients examined has doubled. The Specsort process at VAO headquarters is working at maximum capacity to grade the recycled spectacles kindly donated by the general public.

Whilst the number of projects planned continues to expand,as estimated 300 million people in the developing orld remain in need of a pair of spectacles to live an ordinary life. An average cost of two weeks project is £7,000. Each project restores the sight of an average 2,000 people.

If you are interested in supporting 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