Sarah Knows Eyes

So, four months in to my new job. Do I think I've sold my soul to the Devil? No. Am I on my way to becoming a grey-haired wizened old wreck rocking gently in the corner? Possibly. 



Me, four months in...

Fear not, I merely jest with you. I have however learnt the very meaning of "be careful what wish for". I wanted a challenge, something to get my teeth stuck in to, and BOY did I get it?! These four months have literally flown by, and yet I feel like I'm getting nowhere fast. It constantly feels like one step forward, two to in itself. That, and the fact that the days are getting a shorter by the millisecond, means that very soon I will quite literally be leaving for work in the dark and coming home in the dark. That isn't so much of a problem as the fact that there just aren't enough hours in the day.

It's gotten to the point where I genuinely wonder if I have time to do SarahKnowsEyes or be a TrekkieGirl anymore. 

It will get better I know, I have 100% faith in that and something that I have never been is a quitter. It has got me thinking though, about how much easier life would be if we just kept things simple.

Take varifocal lenses as an example. Any of you over a certain age I'm sure will have been faced with the prospect of wearing varifocals and I'm sure you've all been shown "the pictures"? A series of generally 3, but sometimes up to 5 illustrations: “this is cr*ppy "basic" varifocal lens that cost peanuts but you won't see out of”, up to "this varifocal lens uses genuine NASA technology, but will require you to either remortgage your house or sell a kidney". You know the ones I mean?!




99% of the time, the patient will plump for the one in the middle, the albeit perfectly functional, compromise.

So why all the BS? Of course, it's a fair demonstration of the evolution of varifocal lens technology, but surely all the patient wants is a lens that they can afford AND that they can see through. The rest is quite frankly nothing more than a sales gimmick. In both this and my previous job, I have been constantly asked - "how good are your varifocal lenses? Because I know they are different levels?" It's got to the point now, where I acually tell them it's a sales ploy and that we just provide quality lenses, that we know from experience are effective, and we've worked really hard to provide those at an affordable price. 

I need to apply this rule to the rest of my life. Just looking at my phone - do I really need an app that tracks how much water I drink or another how many calories I consume? (Both of which incidentally can be "synced" with the app linked to my pedometer, so I can tell exactly how many calories I'm burning!) Or a meditation app (I've never meditated in my life!) that was on a "top 5" list and therefore I just HAD to download it!?

It's all just pointless noise. At the grand old age of (nearly) 35 I have to learn to cut the cr*p out of my life and focus on what's really important. Yes, being the absolute best I can be at work, but learning to leave work AT work, and concentrate on the things that make me happy outside of it: my pupsicles, family, friends, SarahKnowsEyes and being a TrekkieGirl! I may not have the same amount of downtime as I had before, but all the more reason to keep things simple.

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Yes, you read that right! This is the perfect time of year to get your eyes tested. With the days sometimes being dank and miserable (although luckily we haven’t had too much of that yet this year!?) and the evenings drawing in, the reduction in natural light makes it so much more difficult to see clearly. Ask yourself…


  • Are you finding driving at night more difficult / uncomfortable?
  • Are you struggling to read in the evenings?
  • Are you / your eyes unusually tired towards the end of the day?
  • Is this you…

Short Arms

I’ve always loved this anaolgy and it is SO true! (Although I’m not entirely sure what the kid in the background is doing?! Is that a pregancy test?!)


The thing is, people always underestimate the importance of good lighting, and natural light (sunlight) is about as good as it gets! At this time of year we Opticians always have an influx of people who think that their eyes have suddenly deteriorated. They usually haven’t, it’s usually been a steady decline over the past 6-12 months, but the problem has been exacerbated by the drop in daylight hours, and hence natural light. People that we saw 6 months ago and recommended new glasses to, who thought they’d leave it as they “weren’t having any problems”, invariably walk through the door, tail between their legs and admit “you were right”.


I’ve lamented the importance of getting your eyes tested at length previously. For instance, did you know that your eyes can tell us a lot about what’s going on in your body? For instance: -


  • Glaucoma
  • Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
  • High/low blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Brain tumours


So this post is just a gentle reminder, that if you’ve started to struggle over the past few weeks, there’s probably a reason for that and now is the perfect time to get your eyes checked!




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So that was #AskAnythingAugust! And ask you did – thank you! Here is a summary of the questions that were asked, and my attempt at the answers!


Colin on asked Facebook: Which is worst - short sighted or long sighted?

SKE: Emmetroptic (“20/20 vision”) is best!! That's a really difficult question, as it depends on what you would view as an advantage/disadvantage?

Low hyperopia (long-sightedness) means that you can see very well in the distance (to drive, etc) and up until your 40s can probably read fairly well unaided. This is because the lens in the eye is still quite flexible, so the muscles are able contract and bring your focus inwards to read (accommodation). Once presbyopia sets in, that's when you may start to need reading glasses for small print. This is probably the slightly more "liveable" of the two?

Myopic people have incredible attention to detail and can see things up close that most of us can only dream of! Imagine being able to take a clockwork watch apart and put it back together again with no need at all for a magnifying glass?! However, then imagine not being able to see clearly for more than an arms length in front of you? Not so appealing huh?

To be honest, in the extreme, neither is particularly pleasant, and in fact can be quite debilitating when uncorrected (without glasses). That is why I can't stress how important it is to get children's eyes tested early, BEFORE they start school.

We should all be able to recognise the signs: a child that always sits right on top of the television or holds books, toys, etc two inches away from their face (possible myopia?). I have known a child in practice who wasn't just shy, but nervous to the extreme. It turned out she was very long-sighted, so anyone that stood within six feet of her was a compete blur - no wonder she jumped every time a stranger went near her. When she put on her first pair of glasses, it was an absolute revelation! Videos like this are real:



Squints, dyslexia, colour-blindness, etc, can all be picked up during a routine eye examination, and although not all curable, early detection can make all the difference if any form of assistance or treatment is required.If there is an underlying, undiagnosed and/or uncorrected prescription, the child could start to struggle in class, possibly becoming unruly and disruptive as a result, and ultimately falling behind, totally unnecessarily.


Nick asked on Facebook: I somehow mysteriously cracked a lens on my fairly expensive Oakley sunglasses. Can they be repaired or should I buy new ones?

SKE: Oh dear LA cracked lens can't be repaired sadly. However, if it is still a current model then any Oakley stockist should be able to order you a replacement (I believe they are only sold in pairs). If this isn't possible, and although Oakley will swear otherwise, depending on the tint and curvature of the lenses, a specialised Opticians may be able to reglaze them for you? Obviously these won't be official "Oakley" lenses, but would do pretty much the same job and would no doubt be cheaper than a whole new pair?


Sam asked on Facebook: Does masturbating really make you blind?

SKE: I KNEW you were going to ask that question (again!) Sam! No, there is no evidence that masturbating makes you go blind, in fact that myth, and others like "it causes you to grow hair on the palms of your hands" or "it leads to impotence" have been debunked countless times. I think that's just what Mum's tell their little boys when they get fed up of washing "those" socks!?

However, here's an interesting little article that should keep you amused for 5 minutes!


@Obvious_Colonel asked on Twitter: Since my LASIK, my vision = perfect. But lately I have trouble with small print. What age is normal to need reading glasses?

SKE: "Presbyopia" - long sightedness caused by loss of elasticity of the lens in the eye - typically occurs in the 40's+, dependent somewhat on the base prescription. 


@CLechleitner42 asked on Twitter: What to do (or not) if the wind drops a grain of sand or so in they eye? Rub? Tilt head? Flush with water?

SKE: DO NOT RUB!! If the foreign body is still in the eye, you may end up scratching the surface of the eye which can be infinitely more painful. Irrigation is the key! Ideally with a saline solution, although understandably you may not have this on your person at the time?!  

The eye will most likely water quite a lot of it's own accord, in an attempt to flush the offending item out. Usually we do not recommend contact between water and the eye (especially if you're wearing contact lenses!) but if you still feel like the foreign body is in your eye, flushing with water should help to dislodge it. (Again, the eye will be probably be watering so much anyway it will flush away any nasty bacteria that may be lurking in the water!)

If the eye remains, or becomes increasingly sore/painful, you should get an Optometrist to look at it as soon as possible, as it may have actually scratched the surface of the eye. Depending on the severity the Optometrist may prescribe some antibiotic eye drops to prevent infection.


@_Seal asked on Twitter: When your prescription changes does your eyeball change shape?

SKE: Good question! The answer to which is no, not really. Once puberty is over, the physical size and shape of the eyeball is pretty much set. Just like you've grown as tall as you're ever going to be. However, as always, it's not quite that simple. Prescription altering changes generally occur within the eye, or sometimes the cornea itself (the very front "window" of the eye) can change shape.

Other than age, the main causes of prescription changes are fatigue, certain medications, trauma or injury, and overexposure to the outdoors (UV). These things can all lead to changes in the translucence of the lens inside the eye. Most happen slowly, naturally if you like, over the course of time, as the eye, like the rest of us, ages. The lens becomes increasingly cloudy and hardens so that the muscles can no longer manipulate it as easily (presbyopia – see an earlier Tweet). Conditions such as diabetes, glaucoma, cataracts and macular degeneration can also alter your prescription, affecting not only the lens, but the retina (the back of the eye) also. 

If you have astigmatism, this too can change over time, in some people more than others, as it only reflects the shape of the cornea. Even a small change in the shape of the cornea can in some cases lead to a larger change in axis. This is generally nothing to be concerned about, providing your eyes are healthy. Keratoconus is a condition in which structural changes within the cornea cause it to thin and change to a more conical shape, which can cause a substantial distortion of vision.

But don’t panic! If you are having your eyes tested as advised (every year or two) then your Optometrist will be keeping an eye on things (no pun intended!) and will tell you if they've found anything to be concerned about.

I actually had to research this. I thought I knew the answer and what I wanted to say, but sometimes it's difficult trying to get that across succinctly? I guess that's what makes a good teacher? However, I did learn a thing or two myself, such as: some studies have shown that people who move their eyes in a certain direction a lot, like scanning columns of numbers, will develop certain kinds of astigmatism. And, that high amounts of astigmatism are commonly found in groups with lower socio-economic status, poor diets, etc! See? You're never too old to learn! Thanks Lizzie!


Colin on asked Facebook: Why are there variations in eye colours? Some people have green eyes whilst others have blue. Was this in relation to evolution purposes?

SKE: Woah! Sounds so simple, but tough question?! Might have to quote Google for a bit here…

Eye colour is a bit complex in terms of “genetics”. The colour of human eyes is not dictated by a single gene like many other traits, but instead is considered a polygenic trait, or a “polygenic phenotype character” (try saying that after a couple of sherbets?!). This means that there are in fact several different genes on various chromosomes that carry information about what eye colour an individual will possess. These genes, when expressed, blend together to make various shades of the different colours we see on show today.

Eye colour itself is determined by two distinct factors: 1) the pigmentation of the iris; and 2) the frequency-dependence of the scattering of light determined by the level of cloudiness of the stroma (the upper layer of fibrovascular tissue of the iris).

(This bit I didn’t know!) In humans, the pigmentation of the iris actually varies from light brown to black, depending on: 1) the concentration of melanin in the iris pigment epithelium (located on the back of the iris), 2) the melanin content within the iris stroma (located at the front of the iris), and 3) the cellular density of the stroma. The appearance of blue and green, as well as hazel eyes, results from the Tyndall scattering of light in the stroma (a phenomenon similar to that which accounts for the blueness of the sky called Rayleigh scattering). Neither blue nor green pigments are ever present in the human iris or ocular fluid, eye color is thus an instance of structural colour and varies depending on the lighting conditions, especially for lighter-colored eyes.

There is a very close connection between eye colour and skin colour. Our earliest human ancestors are believed to have come from the continent of Africa, where the equator cuts directly through, i.e. it receives almost direct sunlight all year long. This direct sunlight, associated ultraviolet rays, and warm temperatures is thought to have brought about the natural selection of dark skin colour, and hence dark brown, almost black coloured eyes. Pigments, like melanin in the skin, protect against the harmful rays of the sun. This kept individuals with darker skin alive longer, and as a result they reproduce and pass down the dark skinned genes to their offspring.

Even though brown eyes are still considered to be the most dominant of all eye colours, we all know there are several different eye colours readily seen now in the global population of human beings. Why? Well, while evidence is still being collected, most scientists agree that lighter eye colours are as a result of a relaxation of the natural selection of darker skin tones. As our human ancestors began to migrate to various places around the world, the pressure for the selection of dark skin was not as intense and not particularly essential to the survival of those that settled in what are now the Western European nations. These much higher latitudes afforded different seasons and levels of direct sunlight nowhere near the likes of Africa. As a result, the genes that determine eye colour are likely to have mutated, which in turn created even more alleles available to combine together in the gene pool to create different eye colours.

Fascinating stuff huh?!


@_Seal asked on Twitter: What do all the numbers on your prescription mean?

SKE: I totally stole this from! It’s American, as in the UK you won’t see OD or OS, only RIGHT or LEFT (or R & L). Also, British prescriptions are written in minus CYL format, but that’s a whole other story! It does however give you the general gist:

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I've been really torn as to whether to post this blog. It's a bit of a break from the norm for me, as it's of a more personal nature, and I wasn't sure if it was appropriate to discuss in a public forum. However, it is a topic I really want to broach, as I haven’t been, and may not be over the next couple of months, quite so active on here, and I feel you guys deserve an explanation as to why. I've tried my best to remain professional, so here goes...

As I've said numerous times already, I've been in the "Optics" biz for a while now (14 years to be precise!) and for the last 10 years I have been fortunate enough to work for some of the best independent practices and with some of the most incredible people: Optometrists, Contact Lens Opticians, Dispensing Opticians and Optical Assistants. I have made friends for life and my network of professional contacts continues to grow - Optics is a very small world, everybody knows everybody!

I had been in my most recent job for four years and I absolutely loved it. However, sometimes things don't work out the way you thought they were going to and it's time to move on. No matter what you do for a living, I'm sure you all know that the danger of staying in one place for too long is that it becomes comfortable, safe. It stops challenging you. I started SarahKnowsEyes because I wanted more, I knew I was capable of more and had more to give. Anybody that knows me, knows that I've never been one to sit back and put my feet up. I have vision. I have drive. I have determination and I'm not afraid to roll my sleeves up and get stuck in, I've never been afraid of hard work. These are not bad qualities.

So, you guessed it! I'm on the verge of starting a new job. Not only that, but I'm leaving the soft and fluffy world of the “Independent Opticians” and I'm going to work for one of the big boys! Now, I know that this has a certain stigma attached to it (hence the title of this blog), but you see, that there is my dilemma. I have always tried to remain neutral on the whole "Independent versus multiple/franchise" debate. I have always insisted that either are only ever as good as the person(s) in charge, regardless of whether they're Independent or franchised. For instance, some Specsavers / Vision Expresses have a great reputation, whereas I know of some Independents whose morals make saints of the Ferengi! It all depends on the individual.

Over the past 14 years I've worked with (in my opinion) some of the very best in the business. Like the little sponge that I am, I have tried to absorb as much as possible. I have had some hard, hard knocks, and at times my confidence has been admittedly, understandably, shaken. It's taken me a while, and although I'm still learning every single day, now, as a Dispensing Optician, I am confident in my abilities. I paid the money, blood, sweat and tears, to get myself to this point, I can use the initials FBDO after my name with pride (plus the BSc (hons) in Psychology - did I forget the mention that?! BRAAAG!). 

More than that though, my morals are mine, independent of my place of employment, and my work ethic goes with me wherever I go. As long as I stay true to myself, which I know can be more easily said than done, I should have nothing to worry about. I will strive to bring a professional service with a personal touch wherever I go.

Admittedly I'll be working under much tighter constraints than I am used to, and no doubt at least some portion of my day will be spent analysing and stressing over "targets" and "sales forecasts". However, I will be in a position of management, responsible for the training of my colleagues, some, completely new to the world of Optics. Their experience; whether they enjoy it or not (admittedly Optics isn't for everybody); how they work; will be as a direct result of my coaching. I am in a position to do a great deal of good. To bring my "Independent" values to a big company setting. There may be bumps along the way, compromises to be made, but hopefully not too many sacrifices?!

Sometimes you need to spread your wings and fly, be allowed to grow. It doesn't matter if you fall, what matters is that you pick yourself up, brush yourself off and carry on. Sipping my very first cup of tea on that first day, I'll be thankful for that push. To believe my own worth, and to not be afraid to stand up for that, safe in the knowledge that I can do anything I put my mind to.

Or, you may find me a grey-haired wizened old wreck rocking gently in the corner in six months time? Either way, at this point, training over, it's either sink or swim. Wish me luck!

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