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What are cataracts?

Cataracts are areas that develop in the clear lens inside your eyes, stopping light from reaching the back of the eye, and causing blurred or misty vision. They are not painful.

What are the symptoms of cataracts?

  • Blurred, misty or cloudy vision
  • Difficulty seeing in dim or low light
  • Colours look faded or more like sepia
  • Double vision
  • Seeing haloes (circles of light) around bright lights, or finding lights too ‘dazzling’ to look at
  • You feel like the lenses in your glasses are dirty or greasy, even when they are clean

Cataracts can develop very slowly and may not be noticeable for some time. They often develop in both eyes, although not necessarily at the same time or in the same way.

What causes cataracts?

Unfortunately, most cataracts simply develop as we age, although you can reduce your risk by eating a healthy diet and not smoking or drinking alcohol. If you have been exposed to frequent strong UV light, have taken steroid medication over a long period of time, or have had untreated diabetes you may also be at higher risk.

Can you tell me if I have cataracts?

We always check for the signs of cataracts during an eye examination. When we look inside your eyes to check their overall health, we look through the lens inside your eye. In doing so, any cataract or cloudiness will be visible to your optometrist. Other tests will also indicate the presence of cataract, in particular a noticeable drop in visual acuity (the size of the letters you can see on the chart) Most of the time, the vision can be improved by an alteration to the type of correction you have. Where this is not possible, we can discuss referral to an ophthalmologist for more tests and treatment.

Unfortunately, because there are no drops or medicines that improve cataracts, and your vision will deteriorate slowly over time, the only effective treatment is surgery.

What happens during cataract surgery?

Cataract surgery is the most common surgery in the UK and has an extremely high success rate. It is a quick and simple procedure which is carried out under local anaesthetic as a day patient, so you will be able to communicate with your surgeon during the operation.

The surgeon will make a tiny incision in your eye to remove the cloudy lens and replace it with a new, clear artificial lens. You will not normally need stitches, but your eye will be covered to protect it.

If you have cataracts in both eyes, you’ll need two separate operations, usually carried out 6 to 12 weeks apart to give the first eye time to heal.

So, will I need new glasses after my cataract operation?

After cataract surgery most people will still need to wear glasses for certain tasks, although the prescription will be very different from before the operation, and the vision should be markedly better. You will need an eye examination about a month after surgery once your vision has settled down.

If you’re at all concerned about cataracts contact us today.


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Using technology to better examine your eye health

For years the standard way of checking the health of the back of your eyes has been either direct ophthalmoscopy (when we get really close with the bright light) or slit-lamp ophthalmoscopy where you have your chin on a chin-rest and we look inside the eyes using a microscope, a bright light and a super-powerful magnifying lens.

All optometrists are highly skilled at recognising anything that may be wrong, the only problem with this is one of comparison. Judging whether the appearance of someone’s retina two or more years ago has changed or not, can be difficult, even when comprehensive notes are kept. That’s where photographs can be invaluable.

Many eye conditions can be particularly hard to detect because the changes in the appearance of the back of the eye can be very subtle and slow. If we take glaucoma as an example, the appearance of what’s called the optic disc, where the optic nerve joins the back of the eye, is one of the things that we monitor very closely. Glaucoma damages the optic disc and it’s shape and size change slowly as the damage occurs over time. If we have images to compare, then this damage can be picked up a lot earlier than would otherwise be the case. This is not just true of glaucoma, the detection of diabetes and other problems hugely benefit from this too. At Patrick and Menzies, we were early adopters of this technology, known as Fundus Photography over 15 years ago.

Since fundus photography became commonplace, a newer, more advanced technology became available, known as Optical Coherence Tomography or OCT. From the patient’s perspective the procedure is very similar to fundus photography. However instead of a flat 2D photograph of the retina, OCT uses scanning light beams to create a 3D image, not unlike an ultrasound, of the retina. The advantage of this is that we can see the deeper layers of the retina, nerve fibres and blood vessels underneath, things that can’t be seen on a conventional fundus photograph. Conditions like Glaucoma, diabetes and many others can be picked even earlier than before, enabling treatment before any significant sight loss or other complications can occur. We installed OCT in all our practices over 5 years ago and they have proved invaluable.

Our Braintree practice also has something called Optomap. These machines give us an ultra-widefield image of the back of the eye, enabling easier detection of any problems in the peripheral areas of the retina.

These more advanced ways of examining your eyes are a standard part of our private eye examination, and included if you are part of our VisionPlan scheme.

For anyone who receives a basic NHS check, they are available as an upgrade for a small fee.

For more information, or to book an appointment, just get in touch.  We’d be very happy to look after you!


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Brand Spotlight | Prada Eyewear Collection

Prada is the Italian luxury fashion house, specializing in leather handbags, luggage, shoes, ready-to-wear, perfumes and accessories, founded in 1913 by Mario Prada. It represents the best of Italian culture and tradition and is one of the most innovative, prestigious and widely recognized world brands, with a keen attention to detail and a finger on the pulse of new trends. In 2000, Prada launched their eyewear collection, which reflects this approach with unmistakable style, refined elegance and uncompromising quality.

Prada’s eyewear collection is made by Italian eyewear conglomerate and the world’s largest company in the eyewear industry, Luxottica. Luxottica was founded by Leonardo Del Vecchio, who began his career as the apprentice to a tool and die maker in Milan. In 1961, he moved to Agordo in the province of Belluno, which is home to most of the Italian eyewear industry and in 1967, he started selling complete eyeglass frames under the Luxottica brand, which proved hugely successful. Today Luxottica make glasses for Chanel, Versace, Armani, Burberry and Dolce & Gabbana, as well as their own lines.

Prada glasses are among the most colourful, avant-garde and yet wearable on the market today. The brand is renowned for both anticipating and influencing future tendencies, so they’re the perfect option for those who want to lean towards a timeless aristocratic elegance. The collection also includes the Prada Linea Rossa line, which is inspired by the world of luxury sports to convey an everyday casual yet sophisticated style.

“Beauty, creativity and superior quality have always been the guiding principles of the Prada Group,” says Carlo Mazzi, Prada’s Chairman, but the Group is also committed to environmental and corporate social responsibility, so you can sure you are making an ethical choice too.

Take a look at some of the frames: The Duple come in a abundance of colours and has a chunky 1960s feel, upgraded with an exposed metal nose piece, the Ultravox has a beguiling kitten shape and doesn’t overwhelm finer-boned faces, the Journal captures the nerdy-cool vibe with a solid square-frame, the Cinema and the Ornate both have interesting corner details and the Minimal Baroque are so fashion-forward you’ll be on the cover of a magazine!

From sophisticated designs with intriguing detail to vintage models reimagined in different, original nuances, the Prada Eyewear Collection is a range we are very proud to stock. Obviously, we don’t have all frames available at all times in all of our stores, but we are always happy to help, so if there’s a particular style you’re interested in, just let us know!


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Case Study | Mr Manton

The quick thinking actions of one of our optometrists proved to be life saving for our first-time customer Neil Manton.

Earlier this year Neil was driving home from Yorkshire in grey and rainy weather when he noticed a strange shimmering sensation in his right eye. Putting it down to tiredness, initially Neil wasn’t too worried, but when that shadow didn’t seem to go away after a few days he decided to book an appointment at Patrick & Menzies Braintree branch.

At Neil’s appointment our optometrist Charlotte Wearmouth listened carefully to Neil’s concerns and gave him a thorough examination which took almost two hours but couldn’t come to a definitive conclusion. Charlotte said, “Despite not finding any obvious cause, I was aware that Mr Manton’s symptoms were serious, especially as they developed suddenly and were not improving.”

Realising that the problem needed further investigation Charlotte sent the images of Neil’s eye and her findings to Broomfield Hospital with a request for them to follow up. Three or four days, later Neil was called into Broomfield for a further battery of tests, including a brain scan, which revealed that the carotid artery in Neil’s neck was 84% blocked, restricting blood flow to his eyes, and putting him at imminent risk of stroke or fatal heart attack.

Neil was admitted urgently for a 5-and-a-half-hour operation which resolved the issue and Neil was allowed home the following day.

Neil couldn’t be more grateful. “Patrick & Menzies are life savers! I really can’t praise them enough for the professionalism of the service I have received,” he says. “If Charlotte hadn’t been so thorough and taken so much time over my appointment when I went to her, I might not be here to tell the story today.”

Neil returned to Patrick & Menzies just six weeks ago for a further check-up and we are delighted to report that his eye health is even better now than it was before the operation.

Our eyes really are windows to our wellbeing, so if you have any concerns or notice any anomalies with your eyes or vision, please do make an appointment to see one of our optometrists today. We really do go the extra mile to make sure our patients stay well and happy and perhaps enjoy the odd game of golf, as Neil does!


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Diabetes and Your Sight

Who can develop diabetic eye disease?

Anyone with diabetes can develop diabetic eye disease, but your risk is greater if you have high blood pressure or high blood glucose that is left untreated over a long period. You are also increasing your risk if you have high blood cholesterol and/or are a smoker.

How does diabetes affect my eyes?

If your blood glucose levels are out of control and fluctuating, one of the problems you can experience is varying amounts of blurred vision, sometimes on a daily basis. This is important to get checked, especially if you’re driving. But more seriously, diabetes can damage your retina when your blood glucose is too high. This is because the retina needs a constant supply of blood, which it receives through a network of tiny blood vessels and over time, a persistently high blood sugar level can damage these blood vessels and even cause blindness.

What types of eye problems are caused by diabetes?

There are four main problems:

Diabetic retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is the most common cause of vision loss in people with diabetes and up to a third of diabetics over the age of 40 show some signs of the disease.

In early diabetic retinopathy, blood vessels can weaken, bulge, or leak into the retina. This stage is called non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy.

If the disease gets worse, some blood vessels close off, which causes new, weaker blood vessels to grow on the surface of the retina, which can cause serious vision problems. This stage is called proliferative diabetic retinopathy.

Fortunately, finding and treating diabetic retinopathy early can reduce the risk of blindness by up to 95 percent.

Diabetic macular oedema

Diabetic macular oedema is a swelling in the macula – the functional centre of the retina and the part that gives us the ability to see 20/20 and provides the best colour vision. Over time, this disease can destroy the sharp vision in this part of the eye, leading to partial vision loss or blindness. Macular oedema usually develops in people who already have other signs of diabetic retinopathy.

Glaucoma

If you have diabetes you are at twice the risk of developing glaucoma. Ask at your next appointment in branch for more information on glaucoma.

Cataracts

Cataracts occur when the lens in your eye develops cloudy patches which cause blurry, misty vision and, if left untreated, blindness

People with diabetes are more likely to develop cataracts and to do so at an earlier age:  It is believed that high glucose levels cause deposits to build up in the eye’s lens.

I have diabetes – should I be worried?

Diabetes is one of the leading causes of blindness in adults in the UK. However, if you are keeping your blood sugar levels under control then there is no real need to be any more concerned than usual about your eyesight. You should always visit your optician regularly, though, as in the majority of cases problems picked up early can be stopped from progressing and sight can be saved.

If you feel concerned about your eye health please contact your local Patrick and Menzies branch.


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Important Notice

 

Because of the current health emergency, from Monday 23rd, temporarily, we are restricting our service to telephone and email contact only. This is to protect our team and the wider public. We hope this period doesn’t last too long while we work out a system to deal with any emergency you might have.

Our team are currently working extremely hard contacting everyone who has an appointment booked and those who are imminently due, arranging deliveries of glasses and contact lenses and generally being fantastic. If you do need to contact us, we are here but please do but bear with us as this is a fast-moving situation and we are quite busy.

If, however you are having problems with your vision, have lost your glasses, or any other situation where you need our help, then we will do everything possible to ensure we can take care of you.

Braintree: 01376 320419
Brightlingsea: 01206 302249
West Mersea: 01206 383455

Or email enquiries@patrickandmenzies.co.uk

While we await guidance on what, emergency/essential cover we may be able to provide, please go to 111.nhs.uk first or call 111 if you feel you really do have an emergency.

Please take care of each other and stay safe.

The Patrick & Menzies Team


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Brand Spotlight | Flexon

In 1961 US Naval scientists discovered that the metal alloy they were creating for missile heat shields automatically returned to its original shape, even after being hit with a hammer! This advanced memory material became the unique selling point of Flexon, which, since its launch in the US in 1988, has changed the world of eyewear with its unique attributes, building on the memory metal and further utilizing Japanese materials and technology.

Many brands have tried to imitate Flexon’s incredible success, but none have done so. That’s because Flexon frames feature technologically advanced memory metal in the bridge and/or temples allowing them to be flexed, bent or twisted and yet return to their original shape. Flexon frames require a minimal amount of adjustment but the nose pads and end pieces can be fine-tuned for a more custom fit.

Over the years Flexon eyewear has consolidated its design and manufacturing experience to create a varied collection filled with colour and comfort. Memory metal is combined with rubber, TR90 and stainless steel to make lightweight yet durable frames which allow the user to confidently go into any situation their busy lifestyle demands.

In 1997 Flexon Juniors launched: We all know how hard children can be on their glasses, so the Zeus and Aphrodite frames, among others, offer mature yet fun looks in durable, sit-on-able, chuck-in-your-school-bag-able memory metal.

in 2003 the Flexon 600 series quickly became the industry benchmark and in 2014, the modern, practical Evolution collection debuted. From these ranges, the temple of the Nathaniel model has been enhanced with an embossed, rectangular-brick pattern in contrasting shiny and matte finishes; the Julian has bowed temples to accommodate a wide fit; the Gloria is enhanced with a laser etched pattern design with crystal detailing and the best-selling Mariene has two-tone interwoven stainless steel temples.

In 2016 the Sun Collection launched in a rage of classic styles with polarized lenses and backside anti-reflective coatings, and in 2019 the new premium collection, Flexon Black: Sunglasses come in classic aviator and flat metal shapes and Flexon Black offers innovation with screwless spring hinges and tailored temples padded with rubberized detailing.

Flexon spectacles are an ideal choice if you play sport in your glasses or just tend to put your glasses through a lot, but a word of caution: Although Flexon frames are durable, they are not indestructible! Flexon frames should not be twisted more than 90° and Flexon temples should not be twisted more than once around the finger!

Having said that, it’s a stylish, lightweight range well worth considering, so pop in to any of our branches when you’re next in town to see which models we have in stock and how amazing the memory metal really is!


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Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Varifocals!

Why Varifocals?

Varifocals, or progressive lenses, have been around for longer than you might think. First introduced in the late 1950s, the ‘Varilux’ lens was developed by the French company Essel. These varifocals were created to combine a person’s distance and near prescriptions, without the need for a dividing line between the two. Unlike bifocals, with that visible line, varifocals have an ‘intermediate’ area on the lens which enables the wearer to focus on objects in the middle ground like a computer screen. Traditional bifocal lenses often can’t match this.

How do Varifocals Work?

Simple lenses work because their surfaces are curved, and because the material they are made from is denser than air. The more curved and denser they are, the more powerful they will be. Let’s consider the curvature: The weaker the lens is, the flatter it will be. A single vision lens (one that just corrects say, distance vision) has more or less the same curvature all over its surface because its power needs to be consistent. So, if you have a lens that has two different powers to it, like a bifocal, it will have two different curves. The dividing line on a bifocal, which you can often see and feel, is where these two curvatures meet on the lens surface.

In a progressive lens, there is no line and no jump between the two curves – instead there is a gradual change in power from the distance zone in the top of the lens, to the near vision zone in the bottom. The way the lens manufacturers achieve this is to gradually increase the curvature of the lens surface from top to bottom. You can’t ‘see’ this on the lens, but it does create some problems that the manufacturers are finding ever more technological ways of dealing with.

How are the Manufacturing Difficulties Overcome?

As the surface progresses downward and the curvature changes, some distortion is created in the outer, lower edges of the lens.  Effectively the prescription is wrong in these areas of the lens. It’s important to understand that the vision doesn’t suddenly become terribly blurry and distorted as soon as you stray outside the central zone, it starts gradually and gets worse the further out you go. The amount of error that is created is governed by several things, but mostly by how different the near vision prescription is compared to the distance.

Manufacturers have developed ways of minimising this, so it impacts on how the lens feels as little as possible. The amount of error is calculable (by complicated computer algorithms) so 20 or so years ago manufacturing techniques altered to control the curvature of the lens surface much more accurately in the periphery. In the better varifocal lenses then, the surface error is more accurately calculated and more points on the surface are corrected for the error. This gives a wider field of vision, less distortion, more natural feeling vision, smoother transition from near to far and quicker adaptation on the part of the wearer. Basically, a better lens all round.

Which Varifocal Lens Should I Choose?

As with many things in life, the better the lens, the more you tend to pay – and in the case of varifocals, you really do get what you pay for. There are literally hundreds of varifocal lenses available on the market so as a result opticians tend to like to find a manufacturer that makes really great lenses that work for everyone: We choose Nikon Optical for our preferred lens supplier, as we have consistently found that even their entry level varifocal lens are brilliant quality and totally reliable. Their top-of-the-range lenses are really exceptional and can be tailored very specifically to your visual preferences – something we’ll expand on in a future blog.

 

In the meantime, feel free to pop in to any of our branches to discuss how varifocals may work for you.


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Migraines, Headaches and Eye Health

Migraines? Aren’t they just bad headaches? Well, not really. Migraines are defined as a headache that lasts from 4 hours up to several days and affects one or both sides of your head. It can feel as though your head is throbbing or being constricted and can be extremely painful. Often but not always, the pain is accompanied by nausea, dizziness, sensitivity to light and sound and can feel worse if you move around. Some GP’s define a migraine as a headache bad enough for to stop you going about your normal day.

What’s that got to do with my eyes?

Migraines are headaches linked with a sensory imbalance, and as vision is a key part of your perception it is integrally linked to your nervous system: If your eyes are constantly straining, it can sometimes trigger a migraine.

What causes eye strain?

Asthenopia, the medical term for eyestrain, occurs when your eye muscles are over tired. If you can’t see clearly, you may squint often or hold items up close or far away from your face. This will tire the muscles more, meaning your eyesight deteriorates further – creating a vicious circle. Poor lighting can also strain your eyes, but any activity that demands intense use of your eyes for long periods can be linked to problems.

If you’re concentrating hard on something, be it staring at a screen, studying or driving, you tend to blink less, this can make the eyes feel very uncomfortable as they dry out. Working in low lighting creates a poor-quality image on the back of your eye, meaning your eyes work harder to keep focus. If you do any of this for several hours at a time, then the problem is just compounded. It’s important to make it a rule to give your eyes a break every twenty minutes by looking away and purposely focusing on something distant for a while. This increases the blink rate for and relaxes the focussing muscles.

The effort that the eye muscles exert is no different from any other muscle in the body. They get tired if you ask them to do too much. If you focus up close for a long time, it’s effectively the same as carrying heavy shopping back from the shop, your arms would ache, so your eyes will ache too. Having the right glasses will help, if you need a prescription for this, but no glasses will make you superhuman, if you do it for too long it will ache!

I’ve heard about migraines causing blindness – is that true?

Ocular migraines, if you’re unlucky enough to have them, can give many kinds of unusual symptoms. They are more common than you might imagine and are caused by spasms in the blood vessels near the visual pathway (the route from the eyes to the brain). Most commonly people report shimmery, kaleidoscope-type effects in their vision, often arc-shaped, lasting around 20 minutes and still visible when the eyes are closed. They can happen on their own, without the headache. In rarer, more severe cases, the vision can be interrupted more completely. In these cases, there are often other symptoms as well that can appear similar to a stroke. It all depends on where and how severe the spasms in the vessels are. Statistically you may be at a higher risk for permanent vision loss, it is rare though and often linked with other associated medical conditions. Barring an emergency, any concerning symptoms should be investigated by your GP, but it would be advisable to come and talk to us about your symptoms, too.

Sometimes my glasses give me a headache – what can I do?

Headaches caused by wearing spectacles can occur for a number of reasons. Reducing them depends on what you think is causing the headache. For example, if you get headaches mostly when you’ve been on your computer then it may be your prescription needs updating or you need a different type of lens for that task. It may be that you are suffering from glare problems. Or it may even be that it isn’t your specs, you may need to take better breaks from the screen as previously mentioned, as screen glare can cause strain.

Sometimes you can get headaches when you’ve had a change in prescription, particularly if it’s a big change. This happens is because your focusing muscles are used to working with your last prescription and now have to readjust. In order to help this process, it’s best to wear your new prescription as much as possible in order to shorten the time it takes your muscles to adjust.

Headaches can also be caused by a badly fitting pair of specs. If they are too tight, the pressure can get to a point where it causes an ache. If they are loose or wonky, the lenses can be misaligned, causing eyestrain. If you find the fit of your frames needs tweaking, or you need new frames altogether that are measured and fitted properly so that you can wear them with comfort we’ll be happy to help, of course.

Conclusions?

The causes of headaches and migraines are complex and often difficult to pin down. Your eyes can be the cause, but they aren’t always the whole story. If any of the points raised in this article are causing you concern, then don’t hesitate to come and see us at any of our branches or contact your GP.


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Glasses, Goggles and Contact Lenses for Sports

 

If you play a lot of sport then your regular glasses may be driving you a bit mad – misting up when you get sweaty, shifting when you swing the golf club or getting knocked off in a tackle. You may feel you need to take them off if playing a racquet or more intense contact sport like rugby where an impact could mean serious eye injury. In fact, if you’re a sportsman or woman then wearing your glasses may well be affecting your performance. So, what can be done?

Get Special Glasses or Goggles…

Lenses in sports eye wear are usually made of polycarbonate as it’s an impact-resistant lens material that works well to protect eyes from fast-moving objects. Polycarbonate also has built-in ultraviolet protection – especially important for golfers, cyclists, cricketers and runners who may spend many hours in the sunshine.  Untreated polycarbonate lenses can scratch easily, though and so most will include a scratch-resistant coating on both the front and back surface to keep them in shape for longer.

Sport frames are usually constructed of highly impact-resistant plastic and most come with rubber padding to cushion the frame around the temples and on the nose, but sports glasses and goggles are made in a variety of shapes and sizes. There are different designs for different sports and some are even designed to fit inside the helmets necessary for cycling or American football, for example.

Sports protective styles of frames are often contoured, wrapping slightly around the face. They also sometimes come with an elastic restraining strap that hugs the back of the head to keep them firmly in place and they often come in rimless styles or with vents to avoid misting.

If you’re a shooter or sailor, the choice of lens tint may be your ultimate priority and styles popular with those who practice these sports even boast interchangeable lenses to ensure 20/20 visibility in all conditions.

Swimming and ski goggles can be made with lenses that correct your spherical powers (sphere only) or your full prescription, just like a regular pair of glasses. Ski hybrids can come with foam surrounds or side shields to protect from the cold.

The possibilities really are endless, so come and discuss your specific requirements with us.

…Or Switch to Contact Lenses?

Often the most appropriate way of correcting the vision for sport is with contact lenses and we have lenses for every sporting lifestyle: Whether your concern is that you spend a lot of time in the sun and want lenses with UV protection to make sure your eyes are protected, or you’re just tired of glasses which fall off, mist up or impede your peripheral vision at crucial moments, we will find the contact lenses to suit. And that includes those who have varifocal prescriptions or indeed astigmatism.

So even if you have been told you’re not able to wear lenses in the past come and have a chat – chances are we can help. (And for less than you may think!)


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