Driving at this time of year can be hard on your eyes. Straining to see in the dark and dazzle from car headlights can make night-driving particularly testing. And in daytime, the low angle of the sun can make glare even more troublesome in winter than summer. So, what can you do to make winter driving safer and easier on your eyes?
1: Wear Reflection-free Lenses
Reflection-free lenses help reduce dazzle and sharpen night vision by eliminating distracting reflections. Some manufacturers offer reflection-free lenses specifically designed for night driving: for example, Essilor Road Pilot lenses. It's also a good idea to make sure windscreens and mirrors are as clean and smear-free as possible.
2: Wear Prescription Sunglasses
Glare from low winter sun can make driving very difficult, especially when roads are wet with rain or snow. Polarised lenses offer great protection from glare as well as enhancing contrast. Special light-adaptive lenses, like Transitions Xtractive, are another great option. While standard photochromic lenses never fully darken behind the windscreen, Transitions Xtractive are specially designed to do so.
3: Check your Vision
It is essential to make sure your eyesight is inside the legal standard required for driving. Currently, that means being able to read a number plate at 20 metres. When you get your eyes tested with us, we can check your driving vision more accurately and let you know if your spectacle prescription is up to standard.
4: Make sure your Eyes are Healthy
It’s also very important to have your eyes checked for conditions that may affect your ability to drive. Cataracts, for instance, often cause increased sensitivity to glare as well as blurred vision. Other eye diseases that can adversely affect driving include macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.
If you have any concerns about your vision and driving, please don't hesitate to get in touch for professional advice.
Poppy is the adorable labrador cross we're sponsoring to train as a guide dog.
Poppy has now made it to training school and is doing really well. She is everything that you want in a trainee guide dog - willing, enthusiastic, and enjoys learning new tasks.
Poppy has taken to the training harness very quickly and is a natural at guiding. When she isn’t wearing her harness she can be a cheeky puppy, but the moment it goes on she becomes very sensible and focused.
Poppy has begun working with her trainer on the obstacle course. This is made up of every day challenges she may come up against whilst guiding, such as traffic cones and road signs.
When not training Poppy is still very playful and friendly. And her new best friend is a trainee German shepherd cross called Nuggett.
Clik on Poppy's photo to find out more about her progress at Training School
Have you spotted our “Eye-catching” new Sign yet? If you’ve been driving or walking past us lately, you may have noticed an “eye-catching” new landmark.
As part of our new signage, we have fitted a novel clock design - with fully working hands - to the front of the practice.
While part of the idea behind the clock was to create something fun and eye-catching, we also wanted to prompt people into thinking about their eyes and how important it is to get them checked regularly. That’s why it’s a clock with a message - “TIME FOR AN EYE TEST”.
Our new clock is attracting a lot of attention already - lots of people are commenting on it and telling us how much they like it.
So, next time you’re passing by, check out the time - and don’t forget to look after your eyes!
Here's the latest pupdate on Poppy, the energetic youngster we're sponsoring to train as a guide dog. Poppy continues to make great progress. She has matured a lot in recent months and is well on the road to stepping up to the next stage of her journey when she goes to Guide Dogs Training School.
Poppy has done really well overcoming her fear of heavy traffic, such as tractors. That's the result of a lot of time spent with her puppy walkers, Mary and Keith, walking down busy pavements and watching traffic pass by.
She has also made great strides in improving her focus levels and is much less easily distracted by other people walking past her when out and about.
Poppy is also successfully mastering more complex commands such as "find the chair", when she is asked to locate an empty seat for her owner. These are all essential skills that Poppy will need in real-life situations when placed after completing her training.
Of course, it's not all work and no play. Poppy still loves playing with all her toys - particularly her big green dog-toy that she loves to zoom round the garden with.
She has also developed a fascination for playing with leaves, often bringing them into the house if she can! Grooming sessions are another firm favourite with Poppy and she loves nothing better than rolling on to her back for a well-deserved pamper.
Click on Poppy's photo to find out more. And don't forget to look out for Poppy's next pupdate in June when she'll be ready to start Training School. We can't wait to see how she gets on!
We're delighted to announce joint winners for our kids poster competition. It's thirteen year old Rebekah Taylor and her brother Ethan who is seven! Congratulations to both of them!
At Eric Mercer’s, we are delighted to offer new MiSight 1 day contact lenses. MiSight are the first daily disposable lenses proven to slow the progression of myopia (short-sightedness) in children.
What is myopia
Myopia occurs when the eyeball grows too long for the eye's focusing system. That means images are focused in front of the retina instead of directly on it, causing blurred vision in the distance.
The myopia boom
Recent research shows that myopia is rising sharply around the world. It is estimated that around 30% of the world's population is now myopic. In east Asia, the problem has reached epidemic proportions with 90% of teenagers being myopic. In the UK, myopia has doubled over the last 50 years with rates set to rise in coming decades.
MiSight’s clever dual-focus design allows children to see clearly while at the same time slowing down eyeball growth. Three years of extensive scientific trials have shown that wearing MiSight lenses reduces myopic progression in children by 59% on average.
While some parents worry that their children won't be able to manage contact lenses, we find most children adapt to handling and wearing lenses quicker than adults! Kids also find them comfortable with clear vision for all everyday activities - including sports and school work. At the end of the recent 3-year study, 90% of children said they preferred wearing MiSight lenses to wearing their glasses.
Find out more
For more information, check out our myopia control webpage or call in to see us. We'd be happy to discuss your child's eyesight and tell you more about myopia control options.
Calling all budding young artists!
We need your help to design a poster. The idea is to highlight the importance of good eyesight for kids and make sure their eyes are "cool for school".
We're looking for something bright and colourful on a sheet of A4 paper in landscape mode with a short message at the top. Draw or paint whatever comes into your mind when you think about about eyes or vision. It could be a picture of yourself with glasses on, a drawing of your own eyes or a friend’s, or even a picture of someone having an eye test.
Make your message short and snappy - maybe something like, “Book a Back to School Eye Test” or "Are your eyes Cool for School?" Or you could complete a sentence starting with “I love my eyes because….”
The winning design will feature in Bloom magazine. It will also be displayed as a poster in our practice and on our website and facebook page. And there’s more - a great prize for the winner - a £50 Amazon voucher to spend on books, games or other goodies!
The competition is open to children between 4 – 14 years old. Entries can be handed or posted in to Eric’s practice.
The closing date is Friday 24th August. So, get busy this summer and let your imagination run wild. We can’t wait to see your ideas!
Poppy is the delightful and adorable pup we're sponsoring to train as a guide dog. She’s now 6 months old and settling in very nicely to her new home with dedicated trainers, Mary and Keith.
She’s doing really well at obedience training and has been out on various trips outside - to the shops, indoor bowls and even the hairdressers! These are all really important experiences to help Poppy get accustomed to the many different environments her owner may take her to in the future.
To find out more about Poppy's progress and watch her latest video, click on her picture. And for regular updates, keep an eye on our facebook page and Eric’s blog.
This month, we're celebrating 20 years of providing quality eye care in east Belfast. Eric first opened his doors on the Woodstock Road in 1998 and since then the practice has performed over 25,000 eye tests and supplied around 16,000 pairs of glasses.
“I’m thrilled to have reached this 20 year milestone”, Eric says, “and really indebted to all our patients for their kind support and friendship over the years and also to my fantastic staff for their hard work and dedication building the practice up”.
Looking back over the last 20 years, Eric has seen many changes for the better. “There have been major advances in contact lenses, spectacle frames and lenses like varifocals and transitions. In the test room, retinal cameras and other equipment have revolutionized the detection of eye diseases. And there are now greater opportunities than ever for optometrists to get involved in managing conditions like glaucoma, cataracts and red eye.”
As for the future, Eric believes, “eye care is evolving and improving all the time – I can’t wait to see what the next 20 years brings!”.
Winter conditions can be harsh on your eyes, presenting particular challenges and reasons to protect them. Here are some tips on how to look after your eyes this winter.
Make sure your eyes are road-safe
It can be difficult to see when driving in the long dark nights of winter and it’s easy to understand why more accidents happen at night.
Also, glare from the low-lying sun at this time of year, can make daytime driving more hazardous too - particularly when extra light is reflected from wet or icy roads.
Certain eye problems, like cataracts and macular degeneration, can make you even more susceptible to glare. So, if you have these conditions, take extra care when driving at night or in bright sunshine.
Avoid dry eyes
If you have dry eyes, winter can be a particularly trying time. Central heating and increased time spent indoors can make your eyes more prone to dryness - especially when reading, using computer devices or watching TV. That's because your eyes blink less often during these activities.
Dryness can make your eyes sore, red and irritated. Other typical symptoms include grittiness, itchiness, stinging, burning and temporarily blurred vision.
In some cases dry eye problems are linked with health conditions, like arthritis, thyroid and rosacea.
Improve your lighting
The lower levels of light in winter can make reading and close tasks more difficult - especially for older people and those with existing vision problems, like cataracts and macular degeneration. At Eric Mercer's we are partners with Serious Readers, manufacturers of high definition lighting. For more info, call in for a brochure or check out the Serious Readers website.
Parents often tell me they’re worried how much time their children spend on digital devices and if it’s damaging to their sight. So, what are the facts about digital screen time and how can you help keep your child’s eyes healthy?
Can screen time damage my child’s eyes?
There is currently no scientific evidence that the low level of blue light emitted by digital screens causes damage to the eyes. However, prolonged use of laptops, tablets and mobile phones has been shown to cause “digital eye strain”. Symptoms to look out for include headaches, blurred vision and tired eyes. There is also strong evidence that blue light can interfere with children’s sleep patterns.
Tip: Make sure all digital devices are turned off at least an hour before bedtime. And use night settings if your device has them.
Is there a link between screen time and short-sight?
Short-sightedness, or myopia, is on the increase worldwide. Family history, ethnic background, environment and carrying out near tasks have all been linked to the development of myopia. However, there is no clear evidence to suggest that screen time alone is a direct cause. But, there is good evidence that children who spend more time outdoors are at a lower risk of developing short-sightedness.
Tip: Get your children outdoors. Studies show two hours of outdoor activity a day is ideal.
Are my child’s eyes ready for school?
Research shows that as many as one in five children attend school with an undiagnosed eye problem. This can affect their performance in the classroom, as well as other activities like sports, reading and computer games. While some children report headaches or eyestrain, many show no obvious signs and aren’t aware they have a problem. It’s especially important to have your child’s eyes tested if there is a family history of problems like lazy eye, myopia, long-sightedness or astigmatism.
Tip: Book a “Back to School” eye test. Remember eye tests are free for children under the NHS.
School’s out for summer! And hopefully a long summer of fun times and sunny days lies ahead. As parents, most of us remember to put sunscreen and sun hats on our children. But how many of us remember that sunglasses are just as important for protecting against the sun’s harmful UV rays.
Just as children’s skin is more sensitive to the sun than adults, their eyes are also more susceptible to damage. Larger pupils and clearer lenses mean that up to 70 % more UV rays reach the retina compared to adults. Also, because children spend a lot more time outdoors, their annual UV exposure is about 3 times higher than for adults.
Short-term effects of UV
High doses of UV over short periods can cause a condition called photokeratitis - a form of “sunburn” affecting the front of your eyes. If you’ve ever noticed your kids’ eyes looking sore, red and watery after a day at the beach, it’s likely they’ve have had a dose of photokeratitis. Fortunately, like sunburn, the effects are short-lived – usually clearing up within 24 hours.
The longer term effects of UV are less obvious but potentially much more serious. Cumulative exposure to sunlight over a lifetime greatly increases the risk of developing conditions like cataracts and macular degeneration, as well as skin cancers on the eyelids and other delicate tissues around the eyes.
The good news is that by ensuring your children wear good quality sunglasses you can easily protect their eyes against both the short-term and long-term effects of UV rays. Always look out for the “CE” mark and/or British Standard (BSEN 1836) that guarantee safe levels of UV protection.
Remember, if your kids wear spectacles, they needn’t miss out on UV protection - sunglasses can be made up to their prescription. And don’t forget to let your children have some fun with their sunglasses. Kids’ sunspecs come in a wonderful array of styles, offering a fantastic opportunity to experiment with all sorts of funky colours and shapes.
So, if you’re taking the kids abroad this summer or spending a day at the beach, don’t forget to pack their sunglasses along with sun hats and sun cream. And even at home, don’t forget to think about UV protection before they dash out the door to enjoy the sunshine.
Have a safe and happy summer!
This spring, enjoy great savings on your next spectacles with the Essilor "Be a Modern Hero" campaign (as seen on TV). Order any pair of Essilor crizal UV lenses and get a second pair of complimentary lenses (FREE or HALF-PRICE depending on lens type).
This promotion - which includes Varilux, bifocals and single vision lenses - offers a fantastic opportunity to get 2 pairs of premium quality glasses at a greatly reduced cost.
Remember, one pair of glasses may not suit everything you do. That's why our multi-pair offer includes prescription sunglasses, fast-reacting transitions lenses, computer glasses and protective sports spectacles. Alternatively, you could get a spare pair of glasses for keeping in the car or office - or simply create an alternative look.
As independent opticians, Crizal UV spectacle lenses are always our first choice, as they offer unrivaled protection against the six enemies of clear vision - glare, scratches, smudges, dust, water and UV.
Terms & conditions apply. Please contact the practice for more details.
Our increased use of smartphones and other digital devices has sparked much debate about the potential hazards of “blue light” to eye health. BBC’s Watchdog highlighted the issue in a recent undercover investigation into the selling of special lenses designed to filter out blue light.
The programme showed optical staff from two chains of high street opticians stressing the dangers - including one employee who warned that blue light “kills” retinal cells at the back of the eye, causing macular degeneration. So, how concerned should you be about the risk from blue light?
What is blue light?
Blue light forms a small part of the visible light spectrum. It is produced naturally by the sun and artificially by low energy lighting and electronic devices like smartphones, computers and tablets.
Can blue light damage sight?
Some studies do show that certain wavelengths of blue light in high doses can harm retinal cells. However, there is no reliable scientific evidence that the low levels emitted by digital devices can cause permanent damage. In fact, one leading expert, featured on Watchdog, demonstrated that the amount of blue light emitted by a smartphone represented less than 1% of the safe level.
The ultraviolet risk
However, not all wavelengths of light can be considered harmless. Ultraviolet (UV) rays in sunlight have been clearly shown to damage the lens and retinal cells inside your eye, significantly increasing your risk of developing cataracts and macular degeneration. Compared to blue light, there are more compelling reasons to consider lenses that block out UV rays - particularly if you spend a lot of time outdoors. These include many types of reflection-free lens, as well as transitions and approved sunglass lenses.
If you have any concerns about blue light or UV protection, consult your optometrist for advice.