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!


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!)


Lens Treatments | Options and Benefits

When you buy a new pair of glasses it’s not just the frames that come in a myriad of options – these days your lenses can be ‘upgraded’ with various tints, coatings and treatments. But there are so many it can all be a bit confusing – let us break down the most common options and the benefits they bring:

Anti-Reflective

Anti-reflective coating (also called AR or anti-glare) is perhaps the most commonly offered lens treatment, and with good reason: AR coatings not only benefit vision and reduce eye strain, but they can also improve your communication skills! That’s because they make the lenses in your glasses look nearly invisible, so people can see your eyes and expressions more clearly, and you can make better eye contact with them.

An AR coating virtually eliminates reflections from the front and back surfaces of your lenses, meaning more light passes through, allowing your eye to receive a higher percentage of the actual light available – up to 99.5 percent. This means less glare, sharper vision and greater comfort. AR coatings are also a good idea for sunglasses, because they eliminate glare from sunlight reflecting into your eyes from the back surface of tinted lenses when the sun is behind you.

As an additional benefit, most anti-reflective treatments have a special layer that prevents spots and makes them easier to clean, although any scratches do tend to be more obvious on AR coated lenses, so be sure to only use products and cleaning methods we would recommend!

Photochromic

Photochromic lenses automatically darken in bright sunlight (triggered by ultraviolet radiation) to make your eyes more comfortable. Because UV rays penetrate clouds, photochromic lenses may darken on grey days as well as when it’s sunny and they will not darken inside a vehicle because the windscreen glass blocks most UV rays. However, some newer types of photochromic lens activate with both UV and visible light.

An added benefit of photochromic lenses is that they shield your eyes from 100 percent of the sun’s harmful UVA and UVB rays and because exposure to sunlight and UV radiation has been associated with cataracts later in life, it’s a good idea to consider photochromic lenses for children’s eye wear as well as for the spectacles of outdoor-loving adults.

Polarized

Polarized lenses are anti-glare and virtually eliminate bright light from reflective surfaces and so are especially popular with fishermen and sailors.

Scratch-Resistant

Untreated lenses are surprisingly fragile, and it’s very easy to scratch them by storing them incorrectly, placing them down hastily or even cleaning them with some kitchen roll rather than the proper cloth! Luckily, lenses that are treated front and back with a clear, scratch-resistant coating have a much harder surface that is more resistant to scratching and more durable. It’s worth asking about this, because scratches are not only unsightly but can also seriously compromise the clarity of your vision. Nowadays some lenses have a built-in scratch-resistant coating, but double check that this is the case with your prescription.

Lots of options, then! Pop in a have a chat with us to choose that which best suits your lifestyle.


Brand Spotlight | Lulu Guinness Frames

Dare to be different! That’s the motto of Lulu Guinness, who is perhaps most famous for her statement handbags, much loved by trendsetters such as Kate Moss, Emma Watson and Paloma Faith.

Remember the red lips clutch bag that was much imitated a few years ago? That was Lulu Guinness and she makes a knowing little nod to that iconic image with her signature little red lips printed on the arms of each of the frames in her eye wear collection.

Lulu Guinness at Patrick & Menzies

We love the Lulu Guinness range here at Patrick & Menzies because they are definitely a talking point, but without being over-the-top wacky! Rather, they are sophisticated, with a touch of daring – featuring inter-plays of colour and dramatic retro shapes.

The collection is targeted “at women with a fierce sense of humour and an even fiercer sense of their own femininity” and we can see these frames being snapped up by our clients that are looking for something playful and modern, but with a touch of gravitas.

Style details are important to this designer and along with the red lips and metal logo inlay, these frames come in a veritable rainbow of colours, and patterns including animal print, glitter, polka dot, and the trademark black, white, and red – whether you’re looking for a striking silhouette, vintage glamour or subtle whimsy, there’s a frame in this collection to suit.

High Quality Frames

But style doesn’t come at the expense of substance – Lulu Guinness frames are made from high-quality materials, built for the rigours of everyday wear and some of the styles are offered in an alternative, more generous fit. They are super comfortable too, with adjustable or integrated ergonomic nose pad systems and cushioned hinge bracket arms.

“Glasses have become an expression of one’s individuality”, Lulu says. “I wanted my frames to be beautiful objects in themselves as well as flattering for the face”. And they certainly are – luxurious yet affordable, the Lulu Guinness range is in all our stores and, as you would expect, we can fit them with the highest quality lenses that are right for you.

Pop in and browse the collection. We look forward to seeing you!


Finding the Right Frames for Your Face

 

While it’s wonderful that we have so much choice these days in terms of frames it does make the process of choosing the right pair for you somewhat more complicated!

If you’re finding it hard to narrow down the choices, then a good place to start is thinking about your face shape. Generally speaking, people tend to fall into one of five categories: Round, heart shaped, oblong, square and oval:

Round – a softly curving face that is as wide at the forehead as it is at the jaw and with wide cheekbones.

Heart-shaped – sometimes called an inverted triangle. Wider at the forehead and gently tapering to a more pointed chin.

Oblong – sometimes called narrow. A face that is longer than it is wide.

Square – a broad forehead and squarish jaw line.

Oval – a well-balanced face with defined cheekbones and no one dominant feature.

Most people have probably never thought about which shape their face most closely aligns to, and it may be that what you instinctively think you are isn’t quite true. Rather than relying on a friend cocking their head to one side and looking at you quizzically, it’s often easiest to look in the mirror and use a lipstick or a water-based felt tip pen to draw around your reflection (please don’t pick up a permanent marker by mistake!).

Once you’ve established which shape you most align to then see if these suggestions help you find a frame that suits your contours!

Frames for a Round Face

You may find rounder, smaller frames (think John Lennon) just make your face rounder still, so try out square and rectangular frames with strong angles for balance.      Ray-Ban Wayfarer or Clubmaster-type styles (think James Dean and JFK) can also work well, if you prefer a quirkier look.

Frames for a Heart Shaped Face

Heart-shaped – over-sized, pilot-styles and half-rimmed frames don’t work on this type of face as well as oval shapes do, but rimless glasses in particular will also work incredibly well for you. (Think Kate Beckinsale and Richard Gere)

Frames for an Oblong Face

Now, pilot styles do work for those with narrower faces (Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise are particularly fond of these!) as well as square, angular frames. Steer clear of narrow frames as they can make your face appear longer.

Frames for a Square Face

Continuing on the opposites attract route, square faces should opt for round and oval frames that soften the angles of the features. (Think Kendall Jenner and Justin Bieber) Or go for browline frames for a vintage look. Anything too strong or geometric won’t work as well for you.

Frames for an Oval Face

We should be so lucky! Anything goes for ovals so just enjoy having the freedom to explore the entire range Patrick & Menzies has to offer and pick whatever makes your heart sing!

Whatever your face shape, pop into any of our branches to start your selection!


Brand Spotlight | Tiffany Frames

 

Perhaps the world’s most loved and recognisable jeweller, Tiffany & Co. launched its own brand of frames, exclusively designed for women, and its one of our most popular ranges.

History
In the 1830s Charles Lewis Tiffany and John Young had a dream of opening a jewellery store that everyone knew and admired. From small beginnings as a ‘stationery and fancy goods store’ the company became popular with fashionable ladies and first won international recognition at the 1867 Paris World Fair. Tiffany’s introduced the engagement ring as we know it in 1878 and in the same year produced the first catalogue, with a cover in the iconic Tiffany Blue. The brand we all know today has over 200 stores worldwide, known still for its exquisite jewellery and dazzling accessories. Kate Winslet, Anne Hathaway, Natalie Portman and Lady Gaga are just some of the celebrities who are often seen wearing Tiffany jewellery.

“As a luxury fashion accessory, eyewear seems like a natural addition for us” said Michael J. Kowalski, the Chairman and CEO of Tiffany’s, upon the launch of their optical collection: As you may expect from a jeweller, many of the styles are adorned with gemstone embellishments. As you would certainly expect from Tiffany, their signature blue also features heavily!

Style

The frames are romantic and glamorous – dainty charm symbols such as the lock, key and heart appear frequently and the materials used to decorate the frames include gold, silver, diamonds and other precious gems. There are styles with delicate knotworks in silver running along the arms, little clusters of gems which catch the light, or chunkier styles with a tiny Tiffany & Co. plaque! The frames themselves are mainly made from acetate, which is strong, flexible and hypoallergenic.

With a legacy spanning over 160 years, Tiffany glasses are timeless but never old-fashioned. The bold colours and thoughtful details mark these frames out as something quite special and there’s lots of unusual shapes and colours you won’t find anywhere else – from cats’ eyes to rectangular; from an elegant smoky grey to a feminine and flattering blush pink.

Pop in and browse this most luxurious of collections. We feel sure you’ll be as impressed as we are with the detailing, and of course, any of them can be fitted with exactly the right lens for your needs. We look forward to seeing you.


Prescriptions | What does all that information mean?

For many of us, an eye examination is more about the immediate concern of whether your current prescription has changed or, indeed, whether you actually need glasses to help you see better, than anything else!

At the end of your appointment your optometrist will issue you with your prescription: A piece of paper with a series of numbers on it that tell us the sort of lens you need to correct your eyesight. It’s rather grandly known as your ‘refractive error’. The perfect eye projects a sharp, clear image onto the retina, known as ‘emmetropic’. If your eyes don’t do this (and most don’t) it’s most commonly because they have a refractive error and that means the image you see is blurry.

You may have heard the terms ‘short-sighted’, ‘long-sighted’, ‘astigmatism’ or maybe even ‘prisms’, but do you really know what they mean?

What’s a ‘Normal’ Eye?

The power of your lens is measured in units called ‘dioptres’ and most prescriptions are relatively low in power – for comparison, the NHS considers a complex prescription to be anything over 10 dioptres.

A ‘standard’ eyeball has a focusing power of +60 dioptres. This brings light rays coming from a distance to focus on the retina at the back of the eye which is considered to be 22.22mm in length. Around +45 dioptres is provided by the cornea (the front, curved, clear part of the eye) and around +15 by the lens inside the eye. Problems occur with this system if any of these numbers differ from the norm.

Short-sightedness

Let’s start with the most common problem: Short-sightedness. Short-sightedness is correctly known as myopia, which means you can only see objects close to you: The closer you have to be, the more short-sighted you are. If you have myopia then objects at a distance create a blurry image on the back of the eye. This happens because the parts of the eye that bend the light rays are too strong or the eyeball is too long. When you get closer to the object, the light rays arriving at the eye start to diverge, which counteracts the ‘over convergence’ of the light rays and pushes the focus back onto the retina.

Someone who has a myopic prescription will have a minus figure at the start of their prescription, meaning the lenses in their specs (or contact lenses) are diverging: This counters the eye which is effectively over-plussed.

Long-sightedness

Now let’s get onto the more difficult one! Long-sightedness! Hyperopia (sometimes called Hypermetropia) is more difficult to explain. If short-sightedness means you can see things up close, then being long-sighted means you can see things far away, right? Well, not really… although sometimes, yes, that is true! Bear with us!

In this case those light rays coming from a distant object are focused behind the retina. This happens because the parts of the eye that bend the light are not strong enough and the eye effectively doesn’t have enough power to bring the rays to the correct point on the retina.

Some people with a relatively low amount of long-sightedness can see objects clearer if they are really far away – for example, we hear of sailors saying they can see a buoy on the horizon, but they struggle to see the TV, or an HGV driver who can see motorway signs in the distance but not the train times on the monitors at the station.

Someone who is long-sighted will have a plus figure at the start of their prescription, their lenses are plus powered (converging). This compensates for the fact that the eyeball is too short.

Astigmatism

Ok, now let’s get into the tricky diagnosis: Astigmatism. If you have an astigmatism then your eyes don’t produce a single point focus, but actually produce two ‘line foci’. Effectively the eye has two different powers at 90 degrees to each other. This is caused most commonly by the cornea having two different curvatures. In an astigmatic eye the curvature of the cornea will vary: It will have two different curves, one steeper than the other, at 90 degrees to each other.

These curves mean that the eye may be more shortsighted in one meridian than the other, or more longsighted in one, or even long sighted in one and shortsighted in the other, which, as you can imagine, requires a more complex prescription.

Prism

Our eyes produce two images and send these back to your brain. These images are also upside down just to make things more complicated! So how do we see one of everything, the right way up?

Well, that relies on the precise co-ordination of both eyes and the fact that they both line up and point at the same object at the same time. The eyes do in fact produce two very slightly different images and that is how we perceive depth properly, but the difference between them is only slight. The images have to fall in corresponding areas on the right and left retinas for you to only see one of the object you are looking at. If the images fall partly or wholly outside these areas, the brain cannot match them up properly and they become blurred, or even double. The direction of gaze and how well controlled it is, is governed by six muscles around each eye which move left, right, up, down and obliquely. If you have a problem with one or more of those muscles, then it can mean that the images produced become too different from one another.

As the brain senses this mismatch it will tell the muscles to work harder to overcome the problem, sometimes they can but often this will lead to eyes feeling tired (it’s hard work!) or achy. Sometimes this can cause headaches too.

If we detect this issue in an eye examination, then in some circumstances we’ll prescribe prism. This allows the eyes to take up their comfortable position, thus removing the symptoms; and shifts the images on the retina, lining them up so the eyes don’t have to work so hard. In the vast majority of cases you wouldn’t know someone with prism has this correction as the deviation of their eyes is so small it’s not cosmetically noticeable.

You don’t need to worry too much about what your prescription says – that’s our job. But you do need to make sure you’re having regular check-ups to keep the information correct. Pop in and see us at any of our branches for an appointment so we can keep your sight crystal clear.


A Short History of Contact Lenses

 

Isn’t it something of an everyday miracle – pop a tiny little lens in your eye and suddenly, 20-20 vision! For many of us, contact lenses are a lifesaver, but did you ever think how they might have come about?

In 1508 Leonardo da Vinci recorded the idea that the optics of the human eye could be altered by submerging the cornea in a bowl of water in his work Codex of the Eye. Later, in 1636, after reviewing Leonardo’s work, the French scientist Descartes wrote an essay in which he discussed placing a glass tube filled with liquid in direct contact with the cornea to improve eyesight. These ideas, while visionary (do you see what I did there?) were sadly impractical and no significant advances were made for almost two hundred years.

In 1801 Thomas Young made ground-breaking advances in describing astigmatism, and also, the very bold move of gluing water-filled glass tubes to his eyes with wax, building on Descartes’ work. Unsurprisingly this didn’t catch on and it wasn’t until 1845 that another British scientist, John Herschel came up with the idea of casting a mould of an individual cornea and making corrective lenses for that eye. No-one could quite come up with a way of doing that until over 50 years later, when within a year of each other a German false-eye manufacturer called Mueller and a Swiss physician called Flick both made prototypes of glass lenses which fitted over the entire white of the eye. While huge steps forward, these lenses were heavy, uncomfortable and essentially ‘suffocated’ the eye of oxygen so could be tolerated for a few hours at most.

The Americans took over in the 1900s with Feinbloom combining the glass lenses that sat on the cornea with a plastic surround which was more permeable and therefore more comfortable. (This was possible because of advances made by the Hungarian Dr Dallos who had worked on Herschel’s theory of mould-casting and perfected a method of doing so.) Later Kevin Touhy, in a happy accident, broke off the plastic surround of his lens and discovered that his vision was still corrected by using only the part that sat on his cornea. This meant the white of the eye could be left to breathe and so lenses could be tolerated for longer.

After this breakthrough the advances in lens technology came thick and fast: Leonardo’s insistence on the importance of water was borne out by the invention of the hydrogel lens: In 1958 Czech chemist Wichterle, together with his colleague Lim, created the first ‘soft’ lenses that were permeable, pliable and much thinner than glass lenses.

By the 1970s and 80s lenses were becoming more comfortable and could be worn for much longer periods. Today of course we have disposable lenses and even lenses that can be worn overnight or for weeks at a time, with better oxygen permeability and water content, making them a safe, comfortable and convenient option for many people.

Why not come and have a chat with one of our knowledgeable team to find out which type of contact lens may be best for you!

 


A Short History of Sunglasses

 

We often imagine sunglasses to be a recent invention – a modern way to look cool and avoid making crow’s feet! But our ancestors too, weren’t keen on squinting in sunny weather and came up with the idea a very long time ago: As long as 2,000 years ago, in fact, the Inuits were fashioning what they called sun goggles out of bone or wood. Cut to sit close to the face they had narrow slits in them to limit the amount of light and glare that could reach the eye and would have been an essential item in a world where snow blindness was a real possibility.

The Chinese experimented with the use of flat lenses made of smoky quartz to minimise glare in the 12th century and there are even reports that the covert look created by wearing sunglasses was utilised by magistrates to avoid giving away their facial expressions! James Dean, eat your heart out!

Many believe it was the gondoliers of 18th century Venice who first wore tinted glasses specifically designed to offer protection against the sun’s rays. They were called Goldoni glasses, after the actor and playwright Carlos Goldoni, who, it is said was partial to wearing green sunglasses with green silk shades sewn to the rim! Simultaneously, around 1752 James Ayscough began experimenting with using coloured lenses to correct vision problems – an idea which we now know has much merit.

In 1885 we are told by a military surgeon in his work ‘The Optical Manual’, that British soldiers were given ‘two oval flat pieces of blue-tinted glass, set in front of two boat-shaped fine wire-gauze sides’ to act as ‘eye-protectors’ in countries such as India and Egypt.

The first recorded use of the word ‘sunglasses’, however, was in 1891 when a sports journalist reporting on a baseball game in Chicago, noted that a player ‘had lost his sunglasses and misjudged the ball frightfully’! Numerous American newspaper adverts from the late 19th and early 20th century offered sunglasses in different shades of amber and smoke.

In the golden age of Hollywood actors and actresses made sunglasses the fashion accessory they are today – not only did it make them more mysterious (like the Chinese judges!) but the dark lenses also hid the red eyes caused by late nights and studio lights! The market caught on and mass-produced sunglasses soon made the trend accessible to the man on the street. By 1937, 20 million pairs of sunglasses were being sold per year.

Polarised lenses had been invented in 1936, which provided much greater protection against the sun’s damaging rays, and when Ray Ban began making them into aviator glasses for pilots, the ‘cool factor’ of a stylish pair of sunglasses was guaranteed.

It’s a trend that’s here to stay so whether you simply want to look like a movie star, or need some serious protection against the summer sun, pop into any one of our stores and take your pick!

Book your appointment now.


Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Dry Eyes

 

By Dan Edwards, FBDO
Partner/Dispensing Optician at Patrick & Menzies Brightlingsea branch
___________________________________________________________

The subject of dry eyes and the associated symptoms is so vast whole books have been written about it, but today we’ll try to tackle the basics of an increasingly common problem for all ages.

What do tears do and why are they important?

The tear layer sits on the front of your eye, over the cornea and the white of your eye. It’s there to do several jobs – it lubricates the eyelids as you blink (if you had no tears it would be like blinking with two bits of sandpaper! Ouch!), it protects the eye from dust and particles to minimise irritation. It is also the first thing that starts the process of refraction to produce a clear image, because the light hits the tear layer before anything else. In addition, the tear layer allows the cornea to absorb oxygen.

Diagram showing layers of the eye | Causes of dry eye and running eyes
Diagram showing layers of the eye

The cornea (the clear bit over your iris and pupil) has no blood vessels in it, but its cells still need oxygen to stay healthy, so the eye diffuses it from the air, into the tears, then into the cells. (Aha! I hear you ask, what about when you’re asleep?! Well, at night it’s the same process but the oxygen diffuses through the thin vessels on the inside of your eyelids. At much lower levels but just enough to sustain the system while you’re asleep). So, you see, tears are essential for healthy, comfortable eyes, and good vision.

What are tears made of?

Tears are actually quite a delicate balance of three different types of fluid: The bulk of tears are made of water, but equally important are the mucous layer and the lipid (fatty) layer. The mucous layer sticks the tears to the front of the eye and stops them falling off and running down your cheeks. The lipid layer helps prevent the tears from evaporating too quickly, so both are essential to maintain a good quality tear film. An imbalance in these different layers is what gives rise to the many different types of problems associated with dry eyes.

What type of problems do dry eyes cause?

One of the most common problems we see are people complaining of their eyes ‘watering’, especially if it’s windy outside. It seems counter-intuitive to say this is a dry eye problem but technically that’s what it is. If your eye is missing the mucous layer then the cornea is exposed – the wind irritates the eye, so it responds by watering (as it thinks it has a foreign body in it), that water won’t stick, so the tears run off, and the problem spirals.

We often see people with intermittent blurry vision and uncomfortable eyes which can stem from the lipid layer being missing or inadequate. The watery layer evaporates, leaving the mucous layer, which as the name perhaps indicates, gives rise to smeary vision, varying with the blink (a bit like putting petroleum jelly on a camera lens).

People often complain of sore eyes, poor vision and eyelids being stuck together when they wake up in the morning. Assuming infection has been ruled out, this is again happening because the tears are inadequate. If you go to sleep with little or no tear film, what you have got evaporates overnight, and as you don’t produce tears while you’re asleep, you’re left with a mucous residue that stick the lids together and sore eyes as the eyelids haven’t been able to absorb much oxygen.

People with allergies, particularly hay fever, can have dry eye issues as they tend to over-produce the watery part of the tears which washes out the other layers, making the tears badly balanced and unstable.

All of these issues can cause uncomfortable eyes which can look red and sore depending on the severity of the problem. Blinking with reduced tears is a really big irritant and in very severe cases it can actually damage the cornea leading to potentially sight-threatening infection. Thankfully this is rare and the vast majority of people come and see us or their GP before things got to that stage.

What causes dry eyes?

It’s true that dry eyes are more of a problem in older people. This is because as you age you tend to produce a reduced volume of tears and lose elasticity in the eyelids: Droopy lower eyelids expose more of the part of the eye below the iris which not only increases irritation but more importantly, if the lid is falling forward the mechanical support for tear volume is lost and tears run off the eye.

Some medical conditions such as Sjogrens syndrome and other auto-immune diseases in the spectrum of arthritis can reduce the amount of tears we produce. Some medications, including some cancer treatments, also reduce tear production.

Most commonly though lid hygiene is a big factor: the fatty and mucous layers of the tears are produced by tiny glands on the inside of the eyelids just behind the line of the lashes. These ducts are very fine and are easily blocked, so if make up isn’t removed very well, or the lids aren’t cleaned very well, over time the ducts can get blocked with dead skin cells, make-up, dried tear residue etc. This obviously results in inadequate tear production and an unstable tear layer.

The lids can also be affected by something called Blepharitis, an inflammation of the edges of the eyelid which is again more prevalent in older people and leads to a dandruff-like appearance which blocks the ducts and affects tear production.

Environmental factors also play a part. With increasing use of screens, both desktop and handheld, people find themselves staring at these for most of the working day. Each time you blink, you refresh your tears, but when you stare at a screen your blink rate goes down, increasing the amount that the tears evaporate. But it’s not just air-conditioned offices – people on long drives often complain of dry, uncomfortable eyes after staring down the motorway for hours (although this can also be because they need specs!) We also see a spike in dry eye problems when the weather gets cold and everyone cranks the central heating up.

Finally, we have to mention Demodex. Demodex is a tiny mite which we all have on our skin, it lives in harmony with us and is harmless. However, it does like to hide in hair follicles, particularly eyelash follicles, causing inflammation and clogging up the lid margins. Don’t be horrified – we do all have them, and mostly they don’t cause a problem, but if there are too many present they can be the cause of a stubborn dry eye problem that keeps recurring as the mites multiply.

What can be done to resolve dry eye issues?

The best way to tackle dry eyes is to try and find out what’s causing it in the first place, which is sometimes very hard to pin down. An appointment with one of our opticians gives us an opportunity to really have a look at your tear layer and lids and see what the issue is. We can measure your tear break-up time (how fast it evaporates), the tear volume (how much there is and if it’s too thin) and see why it is the way it is: Most of the time there is no one clear answer or treatment, and in some cases, while the problem cannot be ‘cured’, it can often be very well managed.

Options include hot compresses to clear blocked eye ducts, eyelid wipes to remove blockages and kill any mites that are present, drops to re-balance the tears, lifestyle and health advice. There is some evidence to suggest some vitamin supplements can increase tear production, and for some chronically blocked ducts, steam treatments are sometimes used. Sometimes just understanding why something is happening can make one feel better and remove some of the frustration felt.

If you have any of the issues detailed above dont hesitate to come and see us at any of our branches. We have specific dry eye consultation appointments available where your optician will focus on dry eye issues and help you find ways to improve the symptoms. Pop in or give us a call.