How to look after your eyes

We all take our eyes for granted but they need a bit of tlc just like the rest of our body. Kent experts tell us how

How to look after your eyes

Regular eye examinations are the key to good eye health and getting checked over by an optician or opthalmologist is an important date for your calendar.

Optometrist Alisdair Buchanan from Snodland advises children from the age of three upwards should have annual eye examinations, unless otherwise advised.

For children, eye examinations from a young age means squints can be picked up and treated more easily. With examinations free for children under 16, and those between 16 and 18 in full time education, there’s no excuse.

Adults should get their eyes tested every two years, unless advised otherwise by their optician. The over 60s and people with diabetes or a family history of glaucoma get free tests.

But Alisdair warns not all eye examinations are the same.  Some opticians offer only a basic sight test for those qualifying for a free NHS eye examination. Some add top up fees for other tests.

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A good, thorough eye examination includes a variety of tests as well as the basic sight test using a board with letters. And even the ‘puff of air’ test used in the diagnosis of glaucoma is being superceeded with other tests by some opthalmologists.

“These new tests are far more accurate. Between 25 per cent and 40 per cent damage can be caused to the eyes before glaucoma is detected using the ‘puff of air’ test,” explains Alisdair.

Alisdair is one of 15 optometrists in the West Kent area who is able to take referrals from GPs and other opticians for eye problems that would normally be referred to a hospital.

It’s not just problems with sight that detailed eye examinations can pick up. Glaucoma, cataracts, some types of brain tumour, eye disease, diabetes and even high blood pressure can be picked up by an opthalmologist.

Just as new tests are being developed to pick up these issues, the options for treating sight problems are increasing too.

If you opt for glasses, there’s a whole range of frames and lense types to choose from. Frames can range from �25 up to thousands of pounds, and lenses can go up to �800 with special coatings.

Contact lenses are increasingly popular with 3.3 million contact lens wearers in the UK. Of these, 1.4 million of them wear daily disposable lenses. There are many options for contact lense wearers. Alisdair says daily disposables are the most popular and the most healthy for the eyes.

Hygiene is key for contact lense wearers to avoid eye infections and those not using daily disposables should ensure they clean their lenses as instructed, replace their lense pot regularly, and not wear contacts to go swimming but opt instead for prescription swimming goggles which cost around �35.

Increasing numbers are opting for laser surgery to correct short sightedness. But Alisdair warns not to be fooled by the apparent affordable prices quoted in adverts. “More often than not, it costs a lot more than that,” he says.

“Do your research and make sure the clinic you choose offers ongoing care,” he advises. “And make sure you check out reviews of the surgeons and talk to your optometrist about your plans.”

A new vision correcting procedure to the UK is orthokeratology which involves wearing gas permeable contact lenses overnight which change the shape of the cornea. On waking and removal of the lense, vision is improved but gradually wears off throughout the day as the eye changes back to its original shape.

This method has only recently been licenced in the UK and side effects are as yet unknown, says Alisdair. But with prolonged use, the amount of time it takes for the cornea to revert to its original shape increases.

Contact lense case study

Rob Clark from Gillingham has been wearing contact lenses for 13 years. He changed from glasses to lenses for safety reasons and to get clearer vision.

Rob has used weekly and monthly lenses but currently opts for Johnson’s two week disposables as he found weekly disposables kept splitting and monthly ones were too rigid.

“When I first started using contact lenses it took me about two weeks to get comfortable with them in. Not only does it originally feel odd having something permanently in your eye, but as your vision is better, the world is a lot closer and nearer. When I first had them in, I felt I was walking drunk,” he said.

But once he had got used to putting them in and taking them out, there was no looking back.

Rob finds contact lenses fit his lifestyle much better and they improved his vision for sports such as cricket. He was also able to enjoy football, tennis and squash again which he had avoided while wearing glasses in case of an accident.

“Lenses definitely give me more confidence too,” he admits.


Buchanan Optometrists, Snodland

Alisdair Buchanan was in the top five for the 2010 Optician Awards’ Optometrist of the Year competition.

Tel: 01634 240645


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