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.
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According to recent research, up to 65% of people who regularly use computer devices - including laptops, tablets and smartphones - suffer from digital eye strain. Digital eye strain (or computer vision syndrome) encompasses a wide range of troublesome symptoms, from headaches and blurred vision to tired and sore eyes.
Part of the problem is that the pixels making up text on digital devices have less contrast and definition than standard print. That means your eyes have more difficulty adjusting and maintaining focus. So, what can be done to avoid digital eye strain?
Get your eyes tested
Having the right glasses can make a big difference. While reading glasses are perfect for seeing at a normal reading distance, they’re often too strong to comfortably view a computer screen at arm’s length range. Specially prescribed computer glasses or varifocals can be a great help.
Take a break
Ideally, you shouldn’t spend more than 45 minutes on a computer without a break. It’s also a good idea to regularly look away from your computer screen to help relax focus. A good tip is to follow the “20-20-20 rule”: every 20 minutes, take a 20 second break and look at something at least 20 feet away.
Staring at a screen means that your eyes blink less frequently, leaving them prone to dryness and irritation. Blinking 10 times every 10 minutes helps prevent dryness. If your eyes continue to feel irritated, ask your optometrist about artificial tears or other dry eye treatments.
Reduce distracting reflections from the screen by carefully positioning your computer at right angles to any windows. Also, use blinds to avoid glare from windows directly in your line of vision.
Adjust your settings
Try adjusting the brightness levels and text size on your screen to make viewing more comfortable.
If you have any questions about digital eye strain, ask your optometrist for advice.
This summer, you can enjoy great savings on new spectacles with our CRIZAL UV "See more, Do more Campaign" (as seen on TV). Order any pair of Crizal UV lenses and get a second pair of complimentary lenses (FREE or HALF-PRICE depending on lens type).
This promotion includes varifocal, bifocal and single vision lenses and offers a great opportunity to get 2 pairs of premium quality glasses at a much reduced cost.
Remember, one pair of glasses may not suit everything you do. That's why our two-pair offer includes prescription sunglasses, fast-reacting transitions lenses, computer glasses and protective sports spectacles. Alternatively, you can use the offer to simply have spare glasses or 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.
With the promise of longer days and warmer weather, the summer months encourage many of us to spend more time outdoors. While an active lifestyle is certainly good for the health, it’s important not to forget potential hazards to your eyesight. Here are 5 top tips to help look after your eyes this summer.
1) Wear good quality sunglasses
UV rays in sunlight can damage your eyes as well as your skin. In the short term, a day in the sun can leave your eyes feeling sore and red. However, the long-term effects of UV exposure are potentially much more serious, leading to conditions like cataracts and macular degeneration. Wearing sunglasses with full UV protection helps protect your eyes against these harmful effects.
2) Don’t let hay fever hold you back
For hay fever sufferers the summer months can be a misery. As well as causing sneezing and runny noses, hay fever can make your eyes, red, itchy and watery. Eye drops, containing antihistamines and other anti-allergy agents, help soothe these troublesome symptoms. Other useful strategies include wearing wraparound sunglasses and applying cold compresses.
3) Wear eye protection for sports
Sports and other outdoor activities like tennis, cycling and sailing, all offer challenges to your eyes. Specially designed sports spectacles help shield your eyes against injury from fast-moving balls, as well as irritants like dust, wind and sea spray. For swimmers, swimming goggles help protect your eyes from chlorine or salt in the water.
4) Wear prescription protectionIf you wear spectacles you needn’t miss out on protecting your eyes from UV and other hazards. Prescription sunglasses are available in most lens types - including varifocals and bifocals – and many sports spectacles and swimming goggles can also be made to prescription.
5) Ask your optometrist for advice
If you have any queries about sunglasses and eye protection, or any other concerns about your eyes, consult your optometrist.
Short-sightedness (or myopia) in children has more than doubled over the last 50 years. This is one of the key findings of a new study, conducted by researchers at Ulster University.
According to this latest research, nearly one in five teenagers in the UK is now short-sighted. And children with one parent who has myopia are at least three times more likely to be short-sighted than those without a myopic parent. This increases to over seven times more likely when both parents are myopic. The study has also shown that myopia is most likely to occur between the ages of six and 13 years.
While clearly genetics are very important in the development of myopia, other influences are less clear. Although it has long been suspected that more time spent on computers and other near tasks can cause myopia, current evidence suggests such a link is not strong. Other studies have shown that increased time spent outdoors is helpful in preventing or slowing down the progression of myopia. The reasons for this are not entirely clear, but it is thought to relate to the effects of vitamin D production on the growth of young eyes.
Commenting on this latest research, the College of Optometrists has strongly recommended that parents take their children for regular sight tests. This is particularly important if one or both parents are themselves short-sighted. And remember, children’s eye tests are free under the National Health Service. It’s never too early to have your children’s eyes tested, as optometrists have special techniques available for testing children who can’t yet read.
There has never been a better time to wear glasses. Thanks to modern designs, fashion eyewear can enhance your appearance, as well as help you see better. But it can be quite difficult selecting just the right frame. Not only are there hundreds of different styles to choose from, there’s also a wide range of different materials. So how do you know if you’re choosing a frame that really suits you?
Shapes & colours
Often the best starting point is to select a frame shape which balances rather than mirrors the shape of your face. For example, an angular or rectangular frame compliments a round face while a square face is better suited to round and oval styles. Selecting the best colour of frame is influenced by a number of factors, including skin tone, the colour of your eyes and your hair colour.
The recent trend for retro “geek chic” shows no signs of fading. While chunky plastic frames in black and tortoiseshell remain popular, recent trends are favouring subtler shades and colour combinations, often with softer shapes. New generation materials, like TR90 and Ultem, are inspiring new designs with finer, thinner rims. These new materials are also stronger, lighter and more flexible than traditional plastics.
For those who prefer a more traditional look, metal frames remain a popular option. Most standard metal frames are made from nickel alloys. These are very adjustable and cheap to produce but can cause irritation if you have sensitive skin or a nickel allergy. Materials like stainless steel and titanium are hypoallergenic, as well as offering greater durability, strength and flexibility.
For the best quality and comfort, titanium is a great choice of material. With less than half the weight but double the strength of other metals, titanium is ultra-light and durable as well as being allergy-free. Titanium is particularly well suited to minimalist, rimless designs.
To maximise comfort and appearance, don’t forget to think about different lens options. High-index materials will make your lenses thinner and lighter. No-line varifocals offer cosmetic advantages over traditional bifocal designs. And the latest anti-reflection coatings minimise reflections from the surfaces of your lenses, making them more transparent and attractive.
Whichever glasses you choose make sure they are ones you enjoy wearing and that feel comfortable. Ask your optometrist for advice on the best frame and lens options for you.
The sixth annual National Eye Health Week takes place this month from 21st – 27th September. The Week aims to inspire people to make healthy lifestyle choices that will benefit their eyes, as well as highlighting the importance of having regular eye tests.
To help you get on track, here are 6 top tips for keeping your eyes healthy.
1: Eat a healthy diet
Most of us aren’t aware that what we eat can affect how well we see. However, research shows that eye-friendly nutrients found in many fruit and vegetables can help protect against conditions like macular degeneration and cataracts. Dark green leafy veg, like spinach and kale, are particularly beneficial. Also, oily fish, like salmon and tuna are packed with omega 3 which helps ease the symptoms of dry eyes.
2: Quit smoking
Recent research shows that being a smoker can more than double your chances of sight loss. Toxic chemicals in tobacco smoke damage the delicate surface and the internal structure of the eye. This increases your risk of developing eye conditions like macular degeneration, cataracts, thyroid eye disease and dry eyes.
3: Watch your weight
A high body mass index (BMI) doubles your risk of suffering macular degeneration and significantly increases your chances of developing cataracts. It also increases your risk of developing eye complications from general health problems like diabetes and high blood pressure.
4: Keep fit
Studies show that even moderate exercise can help reduce your risk of glaucoma by lowering eye pressure and improving blood flow to the optic nerve. Also, the antioxidant effects of exercise are thought to reduce your risk of cataracts and macular degeneration.
5: Protect against UV light
Exposure to the sun’s UV rays increases your risk of developing cataracts and macular degeneration, as well as pterygium and eyelid cancer. Surprisingly, the sun in autumn is more hazardous than summer sunshine. That’s because the lower position of the sun in the sky in autumn means more UV radiation enters your eyes. To ensure full UV protection, always choose sunglasses marked “CE” or “BS EN 1836:2005”.
6: Book an eye test
And, last but not least, don’t forget to book an eye test if you haven’t had one in the last two years. Remember, a sight test is not just about getting glasses - it is also a vitally important health check for you and your eyes.
For further tips and guidance on looking after your eyes, click on the National Eye Health Week website at: www.visionmatters.org.uk.
While kids are enjoying the summer break, many parents are already busy planning for the new school year. Uniforms, PE kits, pens, pencils etc. are all essential items on your child’s “back to school” list. However, are you sure their eyes are ready for the challenges ahead?
Poor vision can have a damaging impact on children’s’ ability to learn, as well as holding them back in sports and other school activities. Yet, research shows that as many as one in five children will return to school with undiagnosed eye problems, such as a “lazy eye”. The problem is that children often aren’t aware they have a sight defect. Also, there may be no obvious signs for parents or teachers to pick up on.
Free eye tests
Regular eye tests are the key to ensuring your child has the best possible vision. And it’s never too early to have their eyes tested. In fact it’s a good idea to get an eye check before the age of 4, so that problems are discovered before starting school. The earlier an eye defect is detected, the greater the chances of it being corrected and treated successfully. Remember, it costs nothing to have your child’s eyes tested: NHS eye tests are free to all children under 16 and full-time students under 19.
Fortunately, these days, wearing glasses no longer has the stigma it used to. Modern frames come in a terrific range of colours and styles and most children treat them as a trendy fashion accessory. Nevertheless, while kids’ specs have never looked better or felt more comfortable, wearing them can be a hindrance for sports and other activities.
That’s when contact lenses can be a great option. Contact lens technology has developed immensely in recent years, making them more comfortable and easier than ever to wear - even for children as young as 7 or 8 years old. Daily disposables are a particularly healthy and convenient choice for kids with busy schedules: no cleaning or disinfecting procedures are required and a fresh pair of lenses are used every time they’re worn.
Alternatively, specialized prescription goggles are available for use in a wide range of different sports. These include football, basketball, tennis, squash and swimming. Sports frames are specially designed from light-weight, impact resistant materials with soft protective padding around the eyes and nose. Furthermore, they are shaped in a curved, wraparound style to allow the widest possible field of view.
If you have any questions about your child’s individual visual needs, ask your optometrist for specialist advice. And, to make sure their eyesight is up to standard, don’t forget to include an eye test on your “back to school” list.
Summer’s here and it’s time to get out your sunglasses. Many of us think of sunglasses as simply a cool fashion accessory. But did you know they also offer essential protection against the sun’s harmful UV rays?
Just as UV (ultra-violet) light damages your skin, so it can also harm your eyes. While some of the effects are temporary, others can cause irreversible damage to your sight.
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 suffered from sore, red, watery eyes after a day at the beach, you’ll 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. Research shows that exposure to sunlight makes you more prone to conditions like cataracts and macular degeneration. You’re also at increased risk of developing skin cancer in the delicate tissues around the eyes - particularly the eyelids.
The good news is that by wearing optical quality sunglasses you can easily protect your eyes against the harmful effects of UV. However, not all sunglasses are the same, so always look out for the “CE” mark and British Standard (BSEN 1836) that guarantee safe levels of UV protection. If you wear spectacles, you needn’t miss out, as sunglasses can be made to your prescription - even varifocals and bifocals.
Transitions & polarized lenses
Other options offering full UV protection include transitions and polarized lenses. Fast-reacting transitions lenses are clear indoors but darken outside according to the amount of available sunlight. Polarized lenses offer extra clarity and protection by minimising glare reflected from horizontal surfaces, like roads and water. This makes them particularly good for driving, as well as outdoor activities like cycling, fishing and sailing.
Finally, don’t forget to have fun when choosing sunglasses. Frames come in a wonderful array of styles, offering the chance to experiment with bright colours and flamboyant shapes. Retro styles – such as aviators and wayfarers - retain a classic appeal, while close-fitting wraparound models are popular with cyclists and outdoors enthusiasts.
To discuss your individual sunglass needs, see your optometrist for specialist advice on the different frame and lens options available.
According to a new study, regular exercise can help stave off the development of cataracts.
Swedish researchers found that people who exercised regularly had a 13% decreased risk of cataract when compared to those with less active lifestyles.
This latest study adds to the growing body of evidence about the beneficial effects of exercise on eye health – particularly, age-related conditions like cataracts, macular degeneration and glaucoma.
A cataract is a clouding of the lens inside your eye. It is caused by chemical changes in the proteins within the lens material. Researchers believe exercise helps protect the lens by reducing oxidative stress and improving the balance of “good” proteins in the lens.
Macular degeneration is caused by a breakdown of the delicate cells in the central area of the retina at the back of your eyes. It is thought that the anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of exercise help slow down degenerative changes at the macula.
Glaucoma is an eye disease characterized by damage to the optic nerve at the back of the eye. Studies show that regular exercise can help reduce your risk of glaucoma developing by lowering eye pressure and improving blood flow to the optic nerve. However, it is important to remember that while exercise can be beneficial, it does not replace the need to use glaucoma medications.
Diabetes & blood pressure
Many eye conditions are linked to general health problems. For example, diabetes, blood pressure and high cholesterol. It is well known that by exercising regularly you can help keep these health problems at bay. This in turn reduces your risk of developing eye complications, like diabetic retinopathy and burst or blocked blood vessels at the back of your eyes.
As well as exercise, other healthy lifestyle choices have been shown to reduce your risk of developing eye disease. These include not smoking, protecting your eyes from the sun’s UV rays and eating a healthy balanced diet, rich in fruit and vegetables.
The good news is that you don’t have to be an Olympic athlete to reap the benefits of exercise. Regularly engaging in low intensity activities, like walking, cycling or dancing can work just as well. Remember, it will not only benefit your general health and energy levels - it will help protect your eyesight too.
This month, I’d like to discuss the eye condition that I encounter most frequently in everyday practice - cataracts.
What is a cataract?
A cataract is a clouding of the lens inside your eye, caused by chemical changes in the proteins within the lens material. It is a very common condition which occurs as part of the natural ageing process in the eyes. In fact, most people over the age of 70 will have some degree of cataract.
Having a cataract causes your vision to become blurry, cloudy or hazy. Sometimes, it can feel like you’re trying to look through dirty spectacles. Also, because cataracts scatter light coming into your eyes, you may experience problems with glare. Your sight may seem better on dull, overcast days, but worse on bright sunny ones. When driving at night, you may notice increased dazzle from oncoming car headlights.
Most cataracts develop very gradually and never get bad enough to need attention. However, more advanced cases can significantly affect your quality of life, causing difficulties driving and spoiling your enjoyment of everyday activities like reading or watching TV. At this stage, you may want to consider surgery.
In the past, sufferers had to wait until their cataracts were “ripe” before they could be operated on. Nowadays, thanks to modern keyhole techniques, cataracts can be removed more safely and at a much earlier stage. Surgery involves removing the cloudy lens from the eye and replacing it with an artificial plastic lens called an “implant”.
Certain health and lifestyle factors can make you more prone to cataracts. These include smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, long-term steroid medication and exposure to UV light. You are also at increased risk if there is a history of cataracts in your family or you have an eye that has previously had surgery or been subject to injury or inflammation.
There is no proven way to prevent cataracts. However, there is growing evidence that addressing the above lifestyle issues can help slow their development. These include eating healthy foods, not smoking, wearing a hat or sunglasses out in the sun, as well as keeping diabetes and blood pressure under control. Also, don’t forget the importance of having regular eye tests to help monitor your eyes for signs of cataracts.
This month, Eric was pleased to announce a new sponsorship deal with Bloomfield Junior Football Club.
Last week, Eric met the team and their coaches at one of their training sessions. He commented, “I’m delighted to be able to sponsor the under-14’s team and help provide them with their smart new training tops. It’s a great opportunity to encourage boys to take part in sport in the local area”.
Formed over 50 years ago, Bloomfield FC is a cross-community club based in east Belfast. As well as enjoying close links to the local community and schools, the club draws boys from all parts of the greater Belfast area and beyond.
Supported by their dedicated coaching staff, the under-14’s train twice a week on the superb all-weather pitches at Ashfield Boy’s School and play home games at Orangefield Playing Fields. They are constantly on the lookout for new talented boys to join them. If you would like to come along to any of their training sessions, please contact Gary Gorman on 07980785429.
The team have been very successful in recent seasons winning the SBYL under 12 and under 13 leagues and in 2014 won the 37th AYR International Scotland Cup champion’s tournament. They have recently taken the step up to compete in the Lisburn Invitational League.
Bloomfield Juniors have a strong membership base, including 9 youth age groups from under-8’s to under-17, as well as a Munchkins group aged from 6 years old.
For further information, check out the club website: bloomfieldfc.com.
While the number of smokers has halved over the last 30 years, there are still over 10 million people in the UK who continue to smoke. “No Smoking Day” on Wednesday 11th March aims to further reduce these numbers and improve their health outlook.
It’s well known that smoking causes major health problems, like lung cancer and heart disease, but did you know it can also seriously damage your eyesight? Recent research shows that being a smoker can double or triple your chances of sight loss. For example, conditions like macular degeneration, cataracts and vascular disease are all adversely affected by smoking.
Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in adults over 65 and smoking is the single greatest avoidable risk factor. Macular degeneration is caused by a breakdown in the delicate cells of the macula - the most central part of the retina at the back of your eye. When the macula is damaged, your central vision is impaired, making it difficult to see fine detail, such as small print or features on people’s faces. It is estimated that being a smoker increases your risk of developing macular degeneration by as much as three times. Also, you are more likely to progress to more severe, disabling forms of the disease.
Cataracts are a clouding of the lens inside your eye. They cause blurred, misty vision and are part of the normal ageing process. However, being a smoker greatly increases your chances of developing cataracts – by as much as three times. The odds shorten the longer you’ve been a smoker and the heavier you smoke. Furthermore, smokers are more likely to develop cataracts at a younger age and to progress to denser, more advanced forms that often require surgery.
Smokers are more prone to developing hardened arteries and blocked blood vessels throughout the body. If the blood supply to one of your eyes is affected, the result can be the sudden loss of part or all of the vision in that eye. Unfortunately, this damage is often permanent and irreversible. If you have pre-existing vascular conditions like diabetes and blood pressure you are at particular risk.
The good news is that the risk of smoking-related eye problems reduces as soon as you stop. Furthermore, the dangers decline steadily the longer you remain a non-smoker. If you would like to stop smoking, help and advice is available through your GP or pharmacist. Also, the “No Smoking Day” website can offer help and support. (www.nosmokingday.org.uk). So, don’t delay - “be proud to be a quitter” and join the thousands of smokers pledging to make 11th March “the day you start to stop”. As well as enjoying better general health, you’ll help preserve your eyesight too
U2 frontman, Bono, has recently revealed that his trademark sunglasses are more than just a rock-star affectation. In fact, he needs them to alleviate troublesome symptoms caused by glaucoma. In a TV talk-show, Bono disclosed that he had suffered ongoing problems with red eyes and extreme light-sensitivity before being diagnosed with glaucoma seven years ago.
What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is an eye condition in which the optic nerve at the back of your eye becomes damaged. It is usually caused by a build-up of pressure inside the eye, but reduced blood flow to the optic nerve can also be a factor. While glaucoma is uncommon below the age of 40, it affects 1 in 50 people over that age and 1 in 20 over 70. Glaucoma causes permanent and irreversible damage to your vision and, if left untreated, can lead to complete blindness. There are 2 main forms of the condition – acute and chronic glaucoma.
Bono has acute glaucoma. This is the least common type, accounting for less than 10% of cases. Acute glaucoma usually develops rapidly, with a sudden rise of pressure inside the eye. Symptoms can be severe and include pain within and around the eye, headache, a red eye and misty or blurred vision - often with haloes seen around lights. In some cases, symptoms are milder but recurrent, lasting for just a few hours at a time before disappearing again.
Chronic glaucoma is by far the most common form of the disease. Unlike acute glaucoma, it has no symptoms in the early stages. In fact, it is a classic example of a “silent” disease, developing slowly and painlessly over many years. If you have chronic glaucoma, your peripheral or side vision will be gradually eroded - resulting in “tunnel vision”, if untreated. Surprisingly, even people with late stage glaucoma can still achieve 20/20 eyesight despite having lost most of their peripheral vision. By then, however, it is often too late to stop the disease eating into central vision, causing complete blindness
Protecting your sight
So, how can you protect your eyesight from the dangers of glaucoma? Early detection through regular eye tests is key – particularly to rule out the symptomless, chronic form. For most adults, that means having an eye test every 2 years. If you fall into a high risk category - for example, you are aged over 70, are diabetic or have a close relative with glaucoma - yearly eye tests are recommended. If, like Bono, you experience worrying symptoms, you should have your eyes checked as a matter of urgency. Remember, the earlier glaucoma is detected, and treatment started, the better your chances of maintaining good vision.