What do blind people see?

As part of Royal Blind Week at the end of last month, the charity challenged people to take some time out to experience what it is like to be blind, whether for an hour or a whole day. Those who took the challenge shared their experiences, talking of how difficult daily mundane jobs became and what they missed seeing, people’s expressions, scenery etc. But what did they see? Most probably they were wearing thick blindfolds so saw complete darkness and I think many would assume this is what a person who is blind would see. However this is rarely the case.

This was highlighted in a recent BBC article , ‘What people see instead of darkness’. One individual, who lost his sight in childhood, says the world is an array of luminous colours and light, seeing swirls of light, spinning circles of colour as you might see in a kaleidoscope.

The article was a follow up to an article by a journalist who lost his sight in his youth and he says one of the things he misses most since losing his sight is darkness. Even although he has had the cord cut between his eyes and his brain, his world still has colour and lots of it, moving, swirling, changing colours.

Some who have been blind since birth describe seeing nothing, no colours, not even darkness. Like what you see out of the back of your head or as another person said it as “like trying to see out of one’s foot”, you literally don’t see a thing.

If you are fortunate enough to have your sight, make sure you look after it.

Treatment could be avoided with early diagnosis, say 73% of optometrists

I received this infographic from Spectrum Thea,suppliers of eye drops and solutions. I’m not a huge fan of infographics but the info in this particular graphic was eye-catching. The statistics shouldn’t be a great surprise to my colleagues and me. As an industry, we know the issues, but when you see the figures presented like this, I still find it alarming.

PT00060_Spectrum Thea InfoGraphic_NEW LOGO d2

The most shocking statistic, for me, is that 94% of optometrists think as a nation we don’t take our eye health seriously. That is an enormous figure. And the fact that 81% of optometrists believe that people only get their eyes tested when they experience problems or symptoms is also seriously worrying. The issue with the latter is reaffirmed with 73% of optometrists believing that their patients could have avoided treatment with earlier diagnosis and 80% of optometrists believe many of their patients could have slowed their symptoms by taking preventative measures if they had been diagnosed earlier with more regular eye tests.
I could find an abundance of similar views and statistics from the eye industry. So why do people still fail to have their eyes examined regularly? I think it’s largely down to people believing that if they can see well, their eyes are fine. What they don’t realise is that good vision does not go hand in hand with good eye health. The eye industry has a huge mountain to climb in educating the nation to think about their eye health.
Give your eyes the same care and attention that you give the rest of your body, and make use of the NHS subsidies on eye exams. As far as medical examinations go, an eye test has to be one of the least intrusive. Patients even get decent coffee at Cameron Optometry! So if we haven’t seen you in the last couple of years, please make an appointment to get a thorough once over.

Demodex: a nasty little mite

This weekend I spoke at the 100% Optical event, one of the UK’s largest trade event for eye care professionals. The topic was not one to be relayed over the dining table; it definitely had the ‘eugh’ factor. Demodex are a form of eyelash mite, who get their name from the Greek ‘demo’ meaning fat and ‘dex’, a woodworm. These little mites take up home in eyelash follicles and are stubborn and hard to get rid of. They don’t cause serious harm, in fact many won’t even know they have them, however for some it can be very uncomfortable.

A demodex infestation in the eyelashes can lead to blepharitis, a condition where the eyelids, can become inflamed, red and itchy. Or on the face they are linked with rosacea. It is a very common condition, although one that many probably choose not to share.

Unfortunately it is one of these conditions that is very hard to eradicate so during the workshop I discussed ways to manage it. Firstly I recommend removing as much of the crusty area around the eyelashes as possible, followed by a deep clean of the affected area. The next phase includes the use of tea tree oil. But before you nip out to the shops to buy some, please bear in mind that the concentration required to kill the mites could seriously harm the eye so this is best done by an optometrist who knows what they are doing. Then patients will be given a lid hygiene programme that may include various specialised wipes and products. The condition should then be continually monitored to ensure it does not become more severe and to gauge whether further deep cleaning is required.

Blindness feared more than Alzheimer’s

Research out from the RNIB has found that adults in the UK are more afraid of losing their sight than any other age-related health condition. The survey of over 2000 people found nearly half (44%) feared blindness more than Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or heart disease. I have many patients who have said they feel the same.

Old age eye
Not all sight loss is preventable, but throughout your life there are steps that you can take to reduce your chances of losing your sight in later years.
• Starting from childhood,parents can ensure their children’s eyes are protected from the sun by wearing sunglasses and hats. Instilling these lessons in children early on will hopefully benefit them throughout their adult lives.
Diet is also something we have covered many times before and is an essential part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle and will benefit your eyes.
• Studies have also identified that smokershave an increased risk of age-related macular degeneration.
• The importance of having regular eye tests is one that we tirelessly preach to anyone who will listen! With detailed eye examinations using the most advanced technology, we can pick up early signs of eye conditions that can then be treated or at least managed. We also take a full family history to identify where someone might have a higher risk of developing conditions such as glaucoma and manage their care accordingly.
Some degree of sight loss is usually an inevitable part of ageing, however following the above advice could make the difference between needing reading glasses and serious vision loss.

Smartphone scanner seeks to reduce preventable blindness

Since the launch of the first portable eye examination kit in 2013, many poorer countries have used it to great effect, diagnosing eye conditions in remote areas. The organisation behind it, Peek Retina, is now in the news looking for funding for its latest innovation – an adaptor which can be clipped on a smartphone, allowing health professionals to see inside the eye.


It could become an invaluable tool help the millions people across the globe who suffer from preventable blindness. There is no need for retinal cameras to be so expensive and bulky when you are just screening eyes and this new scanner will allow non qualified staff to capture images which can be assessed by someone remotely. This could make a real difference for people living in isolated areas in poorer countries where the healthcare infrastructure is inadequate.

Our retinal scanners are large and very expensive, and they aren’t meant to be portable. The images they produce are incredibly detailed and cover the whole eye, surrounding nerves and blood vessels. So they give an incredibly detailed and accurate image of the health of the eye. This scanner is more comparable to a handheld direct ophthalmoscope and provides a good image of the optic nerve but does not cover the majority of the eye.
Sadly this app will never replace the high tech cameras we are fortunate to use in the UK, however it is a fantastic screening tool and I hope it gets the funding and is developed quickly as the battle to reduce the levels of preventable blindness in the world continues.

Changing to Avastin could save NHS £100m a year

The drug Avastin has been in the newscalling for its use in the UK in a bid to save millions each year.


Popular in the US, Avastin is used for patients with age-related macular degeneration (AMD). It has been on the market for years, gone through all the testing and has been proven to be as effective as Lucentis, the NHS approved drug for the same condition. The difference is cost. Lucentis typically costs around £700 per treatment, compared to Avastin which is about £70. Yet red tape seems to be halting its use.

It is currently unlicensed in the UK so should anything go wrong with its use, the practitioner may not be legally covered. However, in times of austerity and it is perhaps time for the NHS to move forward and license its use.

Feast your eyes cookbook

As part of National Eye Health Week, which took place last month, the organisers created a cookbook containing a collection of recipes packed full of essential nutrients for good eye health. We have a pile of them in reception and it has been so popular I thought I’d share it. The super sight saver smoothie is a personal favourite and I’m looking forward to knocking up the sea trout with a crab cigar this weekend!

It is encouraging to see patients taking note of the fact that a good diet really can benefit not only your waistline, but your eyes too.

The recipes feature ingredients proven to help maintain good eye health including some of the following:

Dark green, leafy vegetables – Eating spinach and kale for example, could help avoid macular degeneration. They contain lutein and zeaxanthin; two important nutrients that have antioxidant functions in the body and help prevent cell damage. Lutein helps protect the retina, much like sunglasses.
Bright orange fruit and vegetables – The likes of sweet potatoes have a rich source of beta-carotene, a natural precursor to vitamin A, the vitamin most commonly associated with healthy eyes. And fruits like oranges and papaya are a great source of vitamin C which evidence has suggested may slow the affects of macular degeneration and the formation of cataracts.
Beans and eggs – Adding zinc to your diet by eating zinc-rich foods such as beans, lentils, eggs and turkey will help the liver release vitamin A.
Oily fish -Fish such as salmon and tuna are rich in source of omega-3, which studies have found may also help protect eyes from age-related macular degeneration and dry eyes.
Wheat germ, soy and sunflower seeds – Great sources of vitamin E, which can help protect the eyes from free radical, damage.

Please feel free to pop in to the practice to pick up a free hard copy of the cookbook before they are all gone.
As part of National Eye Health Week, a fellow independent optometrist who was a former Masterchef finalist, also created a range of recipes, from smoothies to fish dishes. Worth a watch if you’re looking for inspiration and a step-by-step guide.

World Sight Day calls for no more avoidable blindness

Thursday will mark World Sight Day, a global initiative co-ordinated by Vision 2020. This year the campaign will focus on avoidable blindness and the organisers have highlighted worrying statistics with approximately 285 million people worldwide living with low vision, 39 million of those are blind. Yet 80% of visual impairment is avoidable, meaning it is treatable or preventable.

World Sight Day 2014

Cataracts and trachoma are the two main causes of avoidable blindness in the world. Thankfully in the UK trachoma is very rare and a course of antibiotics usually deals with it, however this bacterial infection remains the leading cause of infectious blindness worldwide.

Cataracts, however, are a very real problem in the UK. A condition that usually develops in older age, cataracts affect millions of people in the UK. Blurred or clouded vision is the most common symptom of cataracts, however an optometrist has the technology available to identify the very early stages of the condition even before the early signs noticed by the individual. This is one of the reasons we are so keen that people make a point of having a regular eye test. Even if you think your eyes are fine and your vision hasn’t changed, we encourage all our patients to make sure they see us at least every two years, ideally every year for those over 65.

The treatment of cataracts is usually a very straightforward operation however if they are left untreated they can result in permanent loss of vision.

We are very fortunate that we live in a country with very advanced eye care. So many in poorer countries do not have the expertise, diagnosis and treatment available. In the UK it is available so we need to make sure awareness improves so preventable blindness is prevented.

Police Scotland relax ban on officers with colour deficiency

Ian Cameron was asked on to BBC Radio Scotland to discuss Police Scotland’s decision to reverse its ban on recruiting officers with colour deficiency. The change in policy was a result of a legal bid by one potential recruit. You can listen to the piece here.

Ian discussed the eye examination that anyone entering the police force can expect to go through, including a test of visual acuity: how far you can read down standard chart, a visual field: testing peripheral vision, as well as a colour vision test. Ian highlighted that colour deficiency was a very hard condition to quantify as the test is not very accurate and there are such varying degrees of the condition.

Putting it in the context of the police force, Ian discussed how officers with colour deficiency, may find it harder to pick out an individual in a crowd based on the colour of clothes he was wearing. Their judgment may also be put under more scrutiny, say under cross-examination.

It is certainly an area that would benefit from more research that could result in better testing to identify a scale for the condition rather than relying on a degree of subjectivity.

Caring for your lenses

World renowned Moorfields Eye Hospital has recently launched a campaign to encourage contact lens wearers to ensure they take care of their eyes. The hospital has seen a marked increase in cases of eye infections relating to contact lens wear. Most worryingly an increase in an infection called acanthamoeba keratitis which can be extremely difficult to treat and in the most serious cases, can see the patient require a corneal transplant.

Tiny parasites called acanthamoeba can live in water so should your lenses come in contact with water the parasites can take up residence in your eye. If they aren’t killed through thorough cleaning, this serious infection can develop. This is a serious yet thankfully uncommon infection, however with cases of it on the increase, now is a good time to remind yourself of some basic guidance which applies to all lenses.

• Always wash and dry your hands thoroughly before handling your lenses.
• After removing your lenses, clean them immediately. Don’t store them without cleaning them first. Cleaning will remove mucus, protein, make up and debris that naturally build up on the surface during the day.
• Never use tap water (or saliva!) to rinse your lenses or case. Microorganisms can build up in water, even distilled water, and can cause infections or even sight damage.
• Ensure your lens case is kept clean. Replace your case every time you open a new bottle of solution.
• Use clean solution every time. Don’t reuse or top up.
• Do not sleep in your lenses unless advised by your optometrist.
• Ideally lenses shouldn’t be worn when swimming but if you do wear them make sure you wear goggles to reduce the chance of contact with pool water.
• Follow the cleaning guidelines you were given, using the recommended products. Doing this will reduce the chance of picking up a nasty eye infection.
• Insert your lenses before applying make up.
• Have an up to date pair of spectacles on hand should you pick up an infection. Many treatments require you to stop wearing your lenses for the duration of the treatment so don’t be caught without a backup.
• Don’t use any eye drops without advice from your optometrist.

Remember these three simple questions:

• Do my eyes feel good with my lenses? You have no discomfort.
Do my eyes look good? You have no redness.
Do I see well? You have no unusual blurring with either eye.

If the answer to any of these questions is no, take out your lenses and consult us straight away.

Here’s a helpful video produced by Moorfields to guide you through the process for soft contact lenses and one for gas permeable lenses

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