Hayfever

Hayfever is one of the most common allergic conditions and it is estimated that there are more than 10 million people with hayfever in England. Here are some simple tips to keep hayfever at bay this summer.

Francesca Marchetti from the College of Optometrists advises: “Hayfever can be a real bore during the summer months and cause considerable discomfort for your eyes. Hayfever sufferers endure symptoms including itchy eyes and nose, sneezing, runny or blocked nose and difficulty in breathing. Exposure to pollen may also set off an allergic reaction, leaving eyes swollen and weepy. If you suffer from hayfever your optometrist can advise on how to reduce your symptoms and make things a little more bearable during the summer. In the meantime these tips should help to alleviate your symptoms. ”

Avoid pollen as much as possible by closing windows and keeping surfaces clear with a damp duster.

If your wear contact lenses, ask your optometrist whether you should wear your contact lenses when you have hayfever, and make sure you have an up to date pair of spectacles to wear instead. The level of pollen is usually lower in the evenings so you may find the symptoms ease during that time of the day.

Wear sunglasses which may help to protect your eyes from dust and pollen.

Visit your pharmacist or optometrist to get medicated eye drops to help alleviate the itching and swelling. If you wear contact lenses remember to check if you can use the drops while your lenses are in.

MIGRAINES

People can get migraines or headaches for a variety of different reasons such as hormonal factors, stress, or a particular food or drink. However many people seem to forget that another key trigger can be their vision.

For example, some people who are more light-sensitive find that contrasting colours or repetitive patterns can trigger migraines – this could include black words on a white background, stripes on a shirt, the lines on an escalator or flickering lights. This is because these patterns can overexcite the visual part of the brain, overloading it and in some cases triggering migraine.

Professor Bruce Evans, Director of Research at the Institute of Optometry says:

 Vision-related migraines are most often suffered by children, teenagers and young adults, as the brain’s sensitivity can decrease with age. The good news is that if your migraines are triggered by visual factors then your optometrist may be able to help prevent some of the migraines. For example many optometry practices will have a piece of equipment called an ‘intuitive colorimeter’ which they can use to prescribe glasses with coloured lenses which patients can put on when they are exposed to visual triggers. Research using brain imaging (fMRI) indicates that the coloured filters quieten down the over-activity in the visual part of the brain.”

If you are worried about their headaches or migraines:

If you find that you experience headaches after looking at a computer, reading, or doing other close up work, your headache may be vision-related so seek advice from your optometrist

Children who come home from school complaining of headaches may be experiencing eye strain; seek advice from your optometrist if you notice this in your child

If you experience migraines try to keep a diary of when you’re getting them to help you identify triggers. If you notice that your migraines come on when you are exposed to fluorescent lights (for example in an office or supermarket), flickering lights or stripes, then they may be vision-related

For people who have problems working in offices or other environments that have fluorescent lighting; try to get more natural light as some people have found that this helps with their vision-related migraines

CHILDS EYESIGHT

We know it can be a really busy time getting children ready to go back to school, but it’s important that you remain vigilant and are aware of even small changes in your child’s eye health.

Children won’t necessarily say ‘I can’t see that’ or know what is normal when it comes to their vision. Optometrists can play a significant role in detecting and recognising conditions that may affect a child’s sight by ensuring children receive the appropriate vision tests early enough to make effective treatment, if needed, possible.

Many parents used to have sight tests at schools and there’s an expectation that it will be the same for their children. However, sight tests are very rarely carried out in schools today, and screening should not be confused with a full eye examination. Problems with vision can hinder a child’s development which is why we encourage parents to remain vigilant to any changes and to book an appointment with their optometrist if they notice anything that concerns them.

If you are worried your child might have a problem with their eyes then they are never too young to have them examined. It’s essential that any problems are picked up at an early stage when they are more likely to be treated effectively.

Examples of vision hindering a child’s development:

Being short-sighted might prevent the child from reading the whiteboard correctly

If a child is colour-defective, they won’t be able to see colours correctly which could mean they have trouble using colours, for example, in art lessons they may use the wrong colour for the sky or grass

Having a lazy eye (an eye with reduced vision) or being long-sighted can cause the child to have poor hand-eye coordination – this can be problematic in sports lessons

If a child has a lazy eye it can often affect the child’s 3D vision which can again affect hand-eye coordination

If a child is long-sighted, they might struggle with work at close range such as handwriting, reading and concentrating on small print and tasks requiring close focus – in some cases the child’s inability to read something has led to a misunderstanding of the child’s intelligence

GLASSES OR CONTACTS FOR CHILDREN?

A survey into optometrists’ prescribing habits for children and young people has found that a child’s maturity is more important than age in deciding whether they are suitable to be prescribed contact lenses.

A total of 748 practising optometrists participated in the research and more than half of the respondents said their criteria for fitting contact lenses had not changed over the last five years, however nearly half (45%) of optometrists said they would recommend contact lenses as a preferred form of sight correction by the time a child reaches 15.

Deciding whether contact lenses or glasses are the best option for a child can be difficult. As well as age, optometrists take into account the child’s interest and motivation to wear contact lenses, personal hygiene habits and ability to look after them. The most common reasons for parents requesting contact lenses for their children included glasses interfering with sports (46%) and daily activities (13%.)

College member and optometrist Francesca Marchetti says:

“There are pros and cons for contact lenses and glasses but it’s important that parents are aware of all the options available. For children who play a lot of sport or go to dance classes, parents often choose contact lenses above glasses for practical reasons. If a child feels self- conscious about wearing glasses then contact lenses can also be preferable.

Contact lenses have really advanced in the last five years and they are now far more comfortable and, importantly, breathable which is much better for the overall health of the eye.

However contact lenses are not for every child. Hygiene is a key factor in optometrists recommending contact lenses as they must be kept extremely clean to avoid infection. An optometrist would normally issue daily contact lenses for this reason but if a child isn’t ready to have contacts then glasses can be a better option.

Some children also prefer wearing glasses as they’re often seen as fashionable these days.

The most important thing is that it is the child’s choice and a three way conversation between the parent, optometrist and child should take place before a decision is made. Children develop at different ages and it must be taken on a case by case basis to ensure the right decision is reached for that child.”