Thursday 19 March 2015

Watch your eyes during the eclipse, warn eye experts

Eye health experts are warning of the dangers of staring directly at the sun, ahead of a solar eclipse this Friday (March 20).

The eclipse will be visible across the UK but the Isle of Lewis, off the coast of Scotland, is predicted see around 98% of the sun blocked by the moon. The rest of the UK may see anywhere from 80–99% coverage of the sun, with London expected to see around 85% coverage. The last solar eclipse to be visible from the UK was in 1999, with the best view in Devon and Cornwall.
Thousands of people are expected to flock to Scotland this Friday for the celestial spectacle, which will see the moon cross the sun’s path, blocking its light for a period. But experts are warning that the event could leave viewers with more than just a crick in their neck.
Eye health organisations are reminding people of the dangers of sun exposure to the eyes, and warning of the dangers of long-term damage which could be caused by using binoculars, telescopes and cameras to view the sun directly.
A spokesperson for the Royal College of Ophthalmologists, told Sky News: “The general public must remember that they should not look directly at the sun or at a solar eclipse, either with the naked eye, even if dark filters such as sunglasses or photographic negatives are used, nor through optical equipment such as cameras, binoculars or telescopes.”
They added: “Particular care should be taken with children. Children should not be allowed to look directly at the Sun at any time."
The AOP’s head of professional development, Karen Sparrow, commented: “It’s important for the public not to lose sight of their eyes during Friday’s eclipse. Looking at the sun directly can cause permanent damage to your eyesight.
Ms Sparrow added: “You only have to think about how a camera works to see the impact. Without the correct filter, pointing a camera at the eclipse can damage the electronics – so just imagine what it can do to your eyes. To take photos of the sun without damaging your camera, you will need to use a solar filter recommended by your camera manufacturer.”
The effect of an eclipse reduces the intensity of the sun’s light, and can reduce the observer’s natural reactions, blinking, squinting and pupil constriction. Cases of solar retinopathy – in which the sun damages the photoreceptors of the retina – have been recorded after previous eclipse events. One of the most infamous cases of sun damage on the eye is Sir Isaac Newton, who reportedly almost lost his sight for days after observing the sun using a mirror.
The only safe way to view the sun is indirectly, using a pinhole projector. It is unclear if the weather will be clear enough to see the eclipse in the UK, but the Met Office has created a dedicated webpage for eclipse watchers to check the forecast ahead of the event.
The AOP's Karen Sparrow offers some safety tips on how to view the eclipse:

Tuesday 17 March 2015

Lucy Jenkins catches up with Optician’s reigning Optometrist of the Year

Andrew Matheson (left) receives his Optician Awards trophy from Optician editor Chris Bennett
Andrew Matheson (left) receives his Optician Awards trophy from Optician editor Chris Bennett
Andrew Matheson of Matheson Optometrists was away in France with his family when he won the much coveted Optometrist of the Year Award at the 2014 Optician Awards sponsored by CooperVision. ‘I couldn’t make sense of all the well done and congratulations emails, until someone told me,’ he says. ‘It was completely by chance; I only entered the Awards as colleagues suggested it.’
However, Matheson is no stranger to the limelight as he has previously received an Optometrist of the Year Award from the Macular Society for his excellence in the field of macular disease and won first prize in the Keeler Retinal Photography, both in 2013.
Qualifying in 1982 and specialising in dry eye, Matheson heads seven Sussex and Hampshire practices in Petersfield, Four Marks, Grayshott, Purbrook, Denmead and Alresford. Due to his heavy involvement in the diagnosis and treatment of macular disease, Matheson has OCT scanners in three practices and developed the company’s own autoflourescence imaging systems which enable earlier detection of macular problems.
He has also written extensively in the optical press on therapeutics, dry eye and autoflouresence and was the author of the College of Optometrists’ and DOCET’s’ Dry Eye Management training DVD.
‘I look forward to every day I go to work. I would never want to do another job. Optometry has so many facets which means that you can be learning new skills throughout your career. I believe in developing a new specialist interest or skill at least every two years.’
Loyal patients
Matheson Optometrists has a loyal patient base with many coming as a result of GP referrals as well as from all over the UK and several European countries to experience Matheson’s specialist contact lens fittings and dry eye clinics. The business is also hot on continuing professional development for staff and has so far trained 26 pre-reg optometrists and enable others to gain their therapeutic qualifications.
‘We must help newly qualified optometrists develop their university gained skills and teach them the tricks of the trade so that they can become excellent optometrists. This takes an investment of time and money but helps the status of the profession grow and is the best way of obtaining a team of excellent colleagues to work with.’
With Matheson’s emphasis on advancing therapeutic optometry throughout the practices and their communities, how does he see the future of optics progressing?
‘The skill base in optometry has improved so much in the last 20 years. However, it’s sad that the NHS is forever trying to pressurise us to see our patients less often than they need seeing and not prescribe spectacles even when they would relieve a patient’s symptoms. You wonder how much [the diagnostics of] eye disease will progress much further with this short-term penny pinching.
‘It’s also important to educate the public about their eyes and how a modern optometrist can help them. We have a website full of information which is heavily used by our patients and provide domiciliary service to those who are housebound. Above all, you should give the service that you would like to receive yourself or that you would want your granny to receive.’
Overseas aid
Matheson’s compassion also extends internationally as he has sponsored humanitarian trips to Malawi and Romania with Returning Vision as well as sending staff on the projects to help with testing and spectacle dispensing.
Even though Matheson wasn’t present to receive his award, what did his practice teams think about his success?
‘The staff were proud that we had done so well and an optometrist is only as good as his team around him. Winning Optometrist of the Year has validated all that we have been striving to do.’

Buy ready readers from a reliable source

Optometrist warns of ready reader defects

Chris Kerr
Christopher Kerr – problem with perceived cost
An investigation by the Sunday Mirror (December 28) has found that 11 pairs out of 12 ready readers had defects that could cause eye strain.
Testing the spectacles from Poundland, Poundworld, Tesco, WH Smith, Marks & Spencer and Superdrug, Croydon optometrist Chris Kerr found that all but one had faults which could cause eye problems.
Four pairs with stronger prescriptions had more serious flaws, he said. ‘To find only one perfect pair out of 12 is quite depressing. They won’t cause you long-term serious harm but they may well have the potential to give you eye strain, headaches and blurred vision.’
The spectacles, priced from £1 to £10.50, were checked for lens strength, alignment of the lens and overall effectiveness. A £1 pair from Poundland had a large ‘wave’ across the surface of the left lens, while the strength of others (Poundworld, Tesco and Superdrug) was either higher or lower than required.
Kerr found the biggest problem with the optical centres, with many having OCs at different heights or not aligned. A wavy image was found on both lenses of a pair from M&S, while there were minor defects with the OC alignment of a pair from WH Smith.
The only pair found to be satisfactory was a £7.50 ready reader from M&S.
He described ready readers as a temporary aid, adding that the real concern was that people were side-stepping a full eye examination which for many was free, while their spectacles may be subsidised or free. Speaking to Optician, he said that perceived cost was putting people off and the profession would be better off without the Government’s health policy of low GOS fees which resulted in cross subsidy.
Research by the College of Optometrists in 2012 found only half of more than 300 ready readers met British and European standards (News 11.01.12).

Originally posted by Rory Brogan on 5 January 2015 in News & Features