The Blog

Corrective tablet screens good news for some

Another BBC article that caught my attention this week, this time about a VDU that can correct vision problems to negate the need for glasses or contact lenses. In short, because it is very technical, the technology is powered by software and algorithms that change the light that a screen emits to distort the image a user sees to their prescription.

When the article talks about one in three people suffering from some form of myopia (short-sightedness), the fact is the vast majority of these people need corrective lenses or glasses for more than just using a tablet. For these people this piece of technology is unlikely to be of any use.

However, there is a very small group who could find this technology hugely beneficial. Even with the most sophisticated contact lenses or glasses, some people with conditions such as keratoconus still see halos and ghosting when looking at VDUs. My hope is that it is that this group that may benefit from this specialist technology. Keratoconus can affect people from a relatively young age, people for whom computers an integral part of their lives both in the work place and at home, so hopefully for this group, this technology could make a real difference.

London Eye Pavillion utilising NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope to benefit AMD sufferers

The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) was launched into orbit in 1990. It was initially flawed as images came back fuzzy however utilising some extraordinarily complex optical calculations, mirrors were used to correct the flaws and provide clarity to the images. This piece of NASA built technology has provided the basis for a new lens which could revoluntionise the lives of AMD (age-related macular degeneration) sufferers who also suffer from ‘fuzzy’ vision.

hubble-space-telescope

The implant inspired by the HST comprises of two lenses and is claims to be a real breakthrough although it isn’t the first miniature implantable telescope for AMD. However it does provide hope for over half a million people in the UK who suffer from the incurable eye disease, half of whom are registered blind.

Developed by the London Eye Hospital and a Spanish professor, the mini telescope is inserted in to the eye, magnifying images as well as redirecting the image away from the centre part of the eye (the macula) on to healthy sections.

We have many patients with AMD and this will be an encouraging development. The hope is that the lenses will be available on the NHS in under three years. We will be following their testing carefully and keep you up dated with how this progresses.

Watch out for sun damage

I was pleased to read an article on the BBC website raising awareness of sun damage and the eyes yesterday. Rightly so, the importance of protecting the skin from the harmful effects of UV rays is well documented. People now take the issue seriously piling on sunscreen, ensuring everyone in the family is covered. However often the eyes are overlooked.

b- sunburn

Perhaps it’s the fact that you can’t see the burn. If you forget to wear sunglasses you don’t wake up the next morning with red, sore skin. But your eyes are also burning, you just can’t see it but the damage that is being done.

As discussed in the article, there are a number of serious conditions associated with exposure to UV rays like cataract and macular degeneration. All develop slowly over time and the effects will be felt as the body’s ability to repair diminishes. Ultimately in later years, the various conditions could cause serious vision problems and in some cases a total loss of sight.

Something that always surprises me is that parents don’t always think of sunglasses for their children. I think it’s an awareness issue. I know keeping sunglasses on a toddler is not easy but getting them used to wearing sunglasses and a hat from an early age, could help prevent them developing these serious eye conditions in years to come.

I wrote a blog back in May on selecting sunglasses. If you’re planning to buy a new pair, familiarise yourself with considerations when making your purchase.

When you think suntan lotion, think sunglasses as well.

New antibiotics make life easier

There’s been a lot of talk about increased resistance to antibiotics in the press recently with the Prime Minister himself calling for action to improve their effectiveness.

Fortunately, eyes are a special case. Drops used on the surface of the eye (termed ‘topical’ as opposed to ‘oral’ or ‘intravenous’) very rarely contribute to any resistance problems and in fact the main stay of infection treatment in eyes, chloramphenicol for bacterial conjunctivitis, has been heavily in use since 1950s and is still going strong.

One of the main issues with this drug is that it penetrates the eye pretty poorly so has to be put in quite often. A typical treatment does is every 2 hours for the first day then 4-6 times a day for 4 days. This is quite a burden if you are trying to put it in children or have trouble putting drops in yourself.

However there has now appeared a new drop called Azyter which is a drug called azithromycin. This was discovered in the 1980s and is widely used orally but is relatively new to use in the eyes. It has proven to be very effective and the dose is a much more manageable 2 times per day for only 3 days.

Because it’s much more powerful, Azyter is available only on prescription from an independent prescribing optometrist where chloramphenicol is available over the counter. Both Gillian and myself are qualified to prescribe this and Claire is undertaking the required training as we speak so you might well find us recommending this is you’ve got conjunctivitis.

Bear in mind there are many things that feel and look like bacterial conjunctivitis to the untrained eye that may require a different treatment so always come in and see us rather than your GP or just buying the drops from a pharmacy.

A smart fit for diabetics

As many of you know, one of our specialisms here is contact lenses so when stories come out about new developments, we all gather round with our morning coffee to discuss. Yesterday’s news regarding the licensing of Google’s ‘smart lens’ to Novartis lead to one of those discussions.

Googles-Smart-Contact-Lenses-Image-3
We see many patients with diabetes, managing the unique issues they face as a result of the condition. I know this story will be of particular interest to them. The smart lenses are designed to measure the level of glucose in the wearers tears so could eliminate currently invasive ways of testing glucose levels, whilst correcting vision at the same time. The licensing of this technology means the possibility of diabetics benefitting from it is now one step closer.

The lenses will probably fall under current contact lens regulation which means that they can only be fitted by a registered and qualified optometrist. As such we are likely to be fitting these ‘smart lenses’ when they eventually make it to market. That will be some years off, but we will follow the progress with great interest and the ‘smart lens’ is sure to be the basis of many more discussions around the coffee pot in the coming months and years.

Detecting Alzheimer’s through the eyes

Almost three years ago I wrote a short blog about an eye test that was being developed in a bid to spot the early signs of Alzheimer’s. So I was pleased to read over the weekend that this research is continuing with signs of success.

That said, whilst the test described may be relatively ‘simple’ in the eyes of the patient, what they are in fact describing is a process involving a very expensive and specialist piece of laser scanning technology, which is still in the developmental stages. The progress has undoubtedly been encouraging but we are still many years away from seeing it in practice.

I have already been asked if this will form part of a regular eye exam. I would suggest this is doubtful. The technology would be very expensive for a practice to purchase and a very small number of patients would fall in to the ‘at risk’ category so it is unlikely to be something you’ll ever see at your optometrists. However I hope that when it is ready, it will be easily accessible to those who would benefit from its use. It could form part of a valuable early detection system, allowing for a plan to be formed with other medical professionals to manage, and hopefully delay, the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

It is such a devastating disease for those affected, so I do hope that research continues both in to this technology and the quest to find a drug to manage the disease.

A four-medal haul for Cameron Optometry

It is impossible to ignore sport at the moment. The World Cup, Wimbledon, the British
Grand Prix and the build up to the first Scottish Commonwealth Games in almost 30 years.
Ok, so here at Cameron Optometry our sporting prowess hasn’t quite reached those heights
but we’re having a good go!

photo-7

Between us we’ve clocked up nearly 50 miles of running. Hazel stepped out to complete her
first-ever competitive race. And no, she didn’t start with a gentle 5km to ease her in, she
went full throttle with the grueling Tough Mudder. Branded as “probably the toughest event
on the planet”, the 12 mile assault course saw her tackling electric fences, climbing over
various challenging obstacles, running through water and yes, facing a lot of mud.

Our newest optometrists, Claire, who has completed a full marathon in the past, took on
a half marathon. And with very little training, understandable as has just started a new job
and has two children to run around after, still completed it in under two hours.

And Gillian, an experienced runner who will shortly begin working at the Glasgow 2014
Commonwealth Games
as part of the medical team in the athletes’ village, completed the
half marathon. This time she acted as pacemaker for her twin brother who left her for dust
on his first ever run, not quite the show of gratitude she was expecting!

And finally, Carol completes our medal tally. She was part of the Hairy Haggis marathon
relay, running the anchor leg to bring the team home in a great time.

So sorry to any clients who have come in this month and found one of our team hobbling
around sporting the odd war wound. Now you know why!

Vision for the competitive edge

Watching the England vs. Uruguay match following the decisive goal from Luis Suarez I heard one of the commentators saying “Suarez sees things that bit quicker than anyone else.” Perhaps his competitive edge did in fact come from his eyes but over the last few days it’s become clear he can’t keep his temper under control properly.

luis_suarez_bite

Whatever the sport, football, cricket, rugby or tennis, all participators want to see the ball first. Now teams are recognising that examining vision may help their players gain the edge over the competition. Specialists such as Sport Vision work with teams and individual competitors to maximise all aspects of vision. It isn’t just about having perfect eye sight, there are many factors that contribute to clarity of vision. Aspects like depth perception and having the ability to focus accurately, would also examined by these experts.

Not every aspiring sports person has access to these services and it is worth speaking to your own optometrist about your vision in relation to your sporting performance. We have a lot of experience in the practice working with top sporting professionals experience that you we would be delighted to share.

Choosing the right contact lenses is a good place to start. Some lenses have features that are especially beneficial to sportsmen and women. For example, custom tinted lenses can be selected to reduce glare when playing under floodlights or in bright sun, and may also improve reaction times. Custom tinted lenses can be worn purely for their tint even if no vision correction is required.

In addition, a trip to your optometrist should include a test of your peripheral vision using specialised technology. You might not notice any issues with your peripheral vision on a daily basis but in sport it could mean your opponent sees the ball that vital split second before you. And even for those who consider themselves to have 20/20 vision, the competitive advantage that could be gained by making even the smallest of corrections should not be underestimated.

Independent opticians top Which? poll of where to buy glasses

It was fantastic to read, as we’d always suspected, that Which? has found that the best place to buy glasses is an independent optician. We have a mass get together at the annual independents’ conference next week and are sure to be celebrating these results.

which-logo

Independent opticians were the only opticians to score top marks for product quality, timekeeping and the all important, customer service. We also shone when it came to staff skills. I know at Cameron Optometry we often talk about the expertise of our optometrists so it is encouraging that this is as important to clients as it is to us.

It is great to see that clients aren’t being swayed by flashy advertising campaigns from big brands and they still value the expertise, quality, care and attention they get from their independent eye care provider.
Here is the full press release from Which? rather aptly entitled, Should have gone to…an independent optician

New Which? research reveals the best and worst places to buy glasses, with local independent opticians coming top and some of the well-known brands falling down.
We surveyed more than 5,000 Which? members about using an opticians and found:
• Local independent stores came top with a customer score of 88%.
• Members-only store Costco came a very close second with a score of 86%, performing highly on timekeeping, product quality, price and value for money.
• Optical Express came in last place with just 59%, falling down on special offers, price and value for money.
• Vision Express also scored poorly for special offers with around four in 10 (43%) having spent more than they bargained for, and three in 10 (28%) saying there were so many offers they found it confusing.
• Independent opticians were the only stores to achieve top ratings for customer service, staff skill and communication.
• Popular high street brand, Specsavers, came near the middle of the table with a customer score of 72%.
• Tesco Opticians lagged behind all others in the survey for its customer service.
• Independents were more likely to fix a problem with glasses at no extra cost (54% of those who complained, compared to 47% of stores overall).
Editor of Which?, Richard Headland, said:
“Not all optician stores are the same and we found big differences between them. We were surprised to see that some of the big high street chains didn’t fare as well as other retailers, like Costco, who aren’t famous for selling glasses.”
Notes to editors:
We surveyed 5,409 Which? Connect members online in March 2014 about using an opticians to have eye tests and buy glasses and/or contact lenses in the past three years. The overall customer scores are based on customers’ satisfaction with the store on their last visit and the likelihood of recommending it to a friend.

Store Customer score
Local independent optician 88%
Costco 86%
Asda Opticians 77%
Rayner Opticians 74%
Specsavers 72%
Boots Opticians 69%
D&A/Dollond & Aitchinson 69%
Vision Express 68%
Tesco Opticians 65%
Scrivens Opticians 61%
Optical Express 59%

As well as rating the store they used overall (customer score), customers also rated them on areas such as price and customer service, on a scale of one to five: 1 – very poor, 2 – poor, 3 – fair, 4 – good, 5 – excellent. These results were then used to create star ratings.

Blurred lines

Last week I carried out a first ever eye examination on former Scotland rugby captain Mike Blair who was recounting stories of problems he has experienced with colour deficiency prompting me to write this blog. In one particular match in Aberdeen he stepped out on to a snow-covered pitch an hour before Scotland were set to kick off, only to find the lines had been marked out in red to make them standout from the snow. However for Mike, this meant the lines were now indistinguishable. From the usual crisp, clear lines he was used to seeing, he could now only see the grass and snow. The result was the groundsmen had to busily change them before kick-off and spectators arrived to see a rare sight – a pitch with pink markings.

ishihara
This is a classic example of red/green colour deficiency which affects around 5% of men and very few women. The degree to which people are affected varies. Usually individuals can distinguish between very bright reds and greens. It is the less vibrant versions of the colours that cause the problems, and distinguishing between shades of red or green can be nigh on impossible. The condition is often referred to as ‘colour blindness’ which is an inaccurate term as those with the condition can still see colour not black and white.

The reason that more men suffer this form of colour deficiency relates to the fact that it is carried through the 23rd chromosome, commonly referred to as the sex chromosome. So both a mother and father would have to be carriers of the faulty gene for it to be passed to a daughter whereas just the mother has to be a carrier for her to pass it to her son.

Whilst it rarely causes individuals major problems, it does rule out certain professions-pilots and electricians are two that spring to mind. It is worth parents noting that the condition may go unnoticed as it is may not be routinely tested for. It is advisable to get children (really only boys) tested for colour deficiency before they start school to ensure it is spotted early. Many learning materials are not tailored to the needs of those with colour deficiency so children may struggle unnecessarily if undetected.

PS. If you can’t see the 29 on the coloured dot diagram above (called the ‘Ishihara test’ by the way), you should come and get your eyes examined!

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