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The Danger of Low Winter Sun

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How do our Children see the World?

It has always fascinated me that people may perceive colours differently from me.

Just because I can point to the sky and say it is blue because I have always been told that colour is called blue, and have everyone agree with me (unless it’s grey and miserable), doesn’t mean they see the same colour. For all I know they see green, but still call it blue.

Children may point at a tree and call it a tree, but are they seeing what we see? Do they see leaves, the texture of the bark, the squirrel hiding in its foliage? When my mum was thirteen years old she got her first ever pair of specs. From that day on her drawings of trees stopped looking like green candy floss on a thick wood stick, and started having leaves. She was short-sighted – quite badly so – everything in the distance was a swirl of colour to her, but she didn’t know any different and because she never complained her parents never suspected.

I have been in this industry over thirty years and in that time I have witnessed a change in not just children’s attitude to wearing specs (in the eighties they cried if they got them, these days they cry if they don’t), but also to the rise in children who need spectacles.

In Asia there has been a documented rise in school-aged children becoming myopic (short-sighted). Once deemed the sort of prescription worn by bookish people, there is a growing belief, backed by studies with control groups, that the modern approach to learning, the hours children spend each day studying books and computers, and then have mobile hand-held devices to play on, is playing a part in the formation of the eye itself, leading to increased cases of myopia not just in Asia, but across the USA and Europe. OK, myopia can be corrected with glasses, but uncorrected, or undetected myopia, can make the eye more at risk of retinal problems in later life, and sometimes no glasses can correct that.


It’s the school summer holidays very soon. Get in touch to book your little ones in, get them checked, it’s free.

Get them outside for at least an hour a day, and we’ll make sure they can see the leaves on the trees.

Don’t turn a blind eye to avoidable sight loss

I have been reading some rather scary but interesting statistics recently.

Last year the Royal National Institute for the Blind, in conjunction with a certain High Street Optical chain, did an enormous amount of research into eye examinations amongst the population of Britain, and the state of the nation’s eye health in general. So shocked was I by some of their findings that if you are walking past our practice anytime soon, you will see how many people it is estimated will be suffering from avoidable sight loss within the next 12 months.

According to the RNIB’s YouGov poll 93% of the population understands that regular eye examinations can prevent sight loss, yet despite this a staggering 27% – 1 in 4 people – have not had their eyes tested within the last two years. Correlate this to the fact that generally sight is considered to be the most important of the senses, and you can’t help but wonder why so many people are still prepared to risk losing it.

There are currently approximately 2 million people in the UK living with some kind of sight loss, and before 2030 this number is expected to rise by a third.

Half of these people will be suffering from sight loss that could so easily have been remedied. The most common untreated causes are Cataracts, Glaucoma, Diabetic Retinopathy, Macular Degeneration and, almost unbelievably, simply the need for a correct pair of specs. All these things can be easily detected during a routine eye examination, and for which there are treatments or appliances to either correct the problem or to try and prevent it worsening. There really is no need for these poor people to be walking around in a fog.

The most vulnerable group are the elderly, for whom Cataracts and Macular Degeneration are the biggest causes of sight loss. Eye examinations for anyone aged 60 or over are free, and should be done at least every two years (yearly if you are 70 or over). Often the changes to vision in the elderly happen so gradually that maybe they just put it down to age and put up with it. In fact, 1 in 3 people aged 85 or over are suffering sight loss. I find that sad.

Equally saddening is the number of people currently living with sight threatening conditions that may not even have symptoms yet. That number is a staggering 5.7 million people. These people include diabetics, smokers, or people with obesity that could lead to diabetes.

The crucial piece of information that everyone needs to draw from this is that an eye examination should be a regular event in everyone’s life. The eyes may not be a window to the soul, but they are a window to your general health. We don’t just worry about how well you can see now, we worry about how well you will see next month, next year, in ten years time.

So, the next time you shuffle across the landing at 2 in the morning, in the pitch black, feeling your way to the loo, imagine how it would be if you had to do that everywhere you went, any time of the day or night. Our passion is to prevent that.

Sam McCain, the owner of Gill’s, gives us the lowdown on cataracts…

Cataracts. You will have heard of them, but do you really know what they are?

Even though the average interval between eye examinations for adults like me is every two years, I tend to get my eyes tested every 10 – 12 months. This is for a number of reasons, not least of which is because, being in the industry, naturally I understand the importance of an eye exam as part of your general healthcare regime. Personally I have a few minor issues regarding my eye health and vision that I feel warrant more regular examinations. One of these issues is what we call ‘Early central lens changes’. Basically, I have the starts of cataracts in both eyes. This was first discovered two years ago when I was (cough cough) twenty-one forty-seven, which is a bit young…glad I’m a bit young for something!

The question we are most commonly asked regarding cataracts is ‘How long before I need to get them done?’ And the answer generally is ‘Pfft, who knows? Could be a year, could be thirty years.’ Now, we know that isn’t exactly helpful, but it is the truth. So many things can affect the formations of cataracts that it is nigh on impossible to tell how rapidly they will develop, but what we can do is monitor them for you. From our monitoring, the moment we see that they have reached a level where they are affecting your quality of vision, we can guide you through the simple process of having them removed, and restoring that wonderful clarity we cataracts-in-waiting people remember.

Whilst we can’t answer how long it is before you need to have your cataracts removed, we can give you lots of tips to slow their progression so you can enjoy your vision for longer.

Please try to do the following:

  • If you smoke, stop. I know, I know, it’s hard, I’ve been there. But if you get bad cataracts you won’t be able to see where you left your ciggies anyway.
  • Wear UV protecting sunglasses ALL YEAR. The sun doesn’t just pop out for two weeks in Ibiza, so neither should your sunglasses.
  • Try and eat a diet rich in green leafy vegetables as they contain high levels of the deliciously-named carotenoids Lutein and Xeaxanthin*. If your eyeball was doing the shopping, it would pick spinach and kale. These nutrients are also found in cold-water fish such as salmon and tuna, in egg yolks and in orange peppers, amongst other vegetables and fruits.
  • Visit us regularly for your eyes to be examined. There is a very good reason why we call it an eye examination and not a sight test.

*Don’t panic, Lutein and Xeaxanthin supplements are also available to buy in practice.

By doing all of the above, not only will you be helping yourself to avoid cataracts, but you’ll be scoring some serious brownie points with your macula, too.

For more information on any of what I have discussed above, please feel free to contact the practice and we will gladly help you!