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Q&A about adult and children's eye health with optician Andy Hepworth - ANSWERS BACK

(65 Posts)
RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 10-Jul-13 13:39:08

We're inviting you to send in questions this week to optician Andy Hepworth, a dispensing optician and ambassador for the JUL-EYE campaign that is running throughout the UK this month. Post your questions about eye health for both adults and children before midday on Tuesday 16th July and we'll post up Andy's answers on July 22nd.

JUL-EYE, takes place throughout July and is backed by the Association of Optometrists and has specialist independent opticians all over the UK during July offering help and tips to keep our eyes tip-top. Its new website has a quiz to calculate if you are eyes-wise, a visionary role model or living in the dark ages, based on your individual Eye-Q score. You can also locate your nearest optician who will be able to provide advice on how to keep your family's eyes healthy for the long-run.

bruffin Thu 25-Jul-13 16:05:32

Thanks for the reassurance grin

Twunk Thu 25-Jul-13 11:08:37

Thank you Andy. I will encourage him to wear them more. Thanks for explaining it.

Areyoumadorisitme Wed 24-Jul-13 20:22:07

Thanks for your answer, it is reassuring to know it's not unusual.

AndyHepworth Wed 24-Jul-13 17:21:12


I have a squint in my left eye, always worse when tired (which is often at the moment!!!) and glasses seem to make it worse. Is it hereditary? My dad also has one, what are the chances that my 16week old son will also develop one? What can be done these days to correct it? I had an op and wore patches when I was a kid, but presumably the medical treatments have moved on since then?

Being a busy person have you managed to have your eyes rechecked recently? If not it may be worth getting them looked at and mentioning that the glasses seem to make the squint worse. There certainly does appear to be a positive correlation between squint and family history. The best thing would be to keep a close check on your son's eyes to see if you notice any signs of a squint and if you do arrange an eye examination. Some optometrists are happy to check babies eyes that are only a few months old. There are numerous treatment options available depending on the type and severity of any squint, which can include exercises, patching, glasses and occasionally surgery. Squints are always better if found and treated early. To find your local optometrist have a look at can uncover a local independent practice.

AndyHepworth Wed 24-Jul-13 17:19:30


I have macular degeneration- probably not age related ( have had since mid 30's), possibly related to being v shortsighted- is there anything I can do about it?

Sorry to hear about your high short sightedness (myopia) and macular degeneration. The higher your degree of myopia the more likely you are to get complications at the back of the eye. The most important thing you can do is make sure you attend for regular eye examinations so they can check the health of your eyes. If you notice any sudden changes in the vision, such as lines looking distorted then go straight back to your specialist for an urgent appointment. Whilst it will not help you, there is research being undertaken on slowing down the progression of myopia.

AndyHepworth Wed 24-Jul-13 17:17:29


My 3 year old has +5.5 prescription in both eyes. I am myopic so I have no frame of reference for what he can see. He appears to see the laptop or ipad screen fine or at least manages.

The ophthalmologist said I should be encouraging him to wear his glasses. I am not really sure why - do you agree? Can you tell me why? Thanks!

Your ophthalmologist is correct, as young children have the ability to focus a huge amount which if you like temporarily corrects the +5.50 prescription. The significance of this is two fold; 1: it can be tiring to focus that much all the time 2: there maybe a slight difference between the two lenses (in the glasses) which allow your sons eyes to work together… this is really important at a young age as it will help the eyes develop as a pair.

AndyHepworth Wed 24-Jul-13 17:16:18


I have had high ocular pressure for around 15 years with no problems, but it is usually between 21-25. I am 50 years old. I have regular appointments at the local opthamology clinic and at present am not on any medication. I am told it is very unusual to go this long without any damage to my eyesight. Is it inevitable that i will get glaucoma ?

It is great news that your eyes are being checked regularly by the local ophthalmology clinic, and they say there is no damage. The ‘normal’ eye pressure varies from individual to individual some people can have a low pressure with damage to the eyesight and others a higher pressure with no damage. This is one of the reasons we recommend regular eye examinations for all people over the age of 40. The ophthalmology clinic will be assessing you for a number of factors that would make you at risk of developing glaucoma (high pressure).

AndyHepworth Wed 24-Jul-13 17:15:33


My daughter has just been diagnosed short sighted ( left eye is somewhat weaker than right) and told her main use for her glasses will be reading the white board at school. The person who tested her also said use for TV and for prolonged reading books etc. However, when we went to pick the glasses up another optician (?) said she would only need them for the distance reading so I ended up a bit confused. Can you help please?

Without seeing your daughter it is difficult to offer advice. That being said I would follow the advice of the optician who examined your daughter. At your daughter’s next examination the optician will want to find out more about when your daughter wears the glasses and how they are helping.

AndyHepworth Wed 24-Jul-13 17:14:48


My 9yo has been saying he can see purple blobs for a couple of years now. I have mentioned it to the optician twice (different ones) and they have both dismissed it as not significant. Is this correct? His eye tests have all come back as good vision with no correction required, healthy eyes etc.

As background, DH is short sighted, I am long sighted and other DS has different eye problems (but not genetic) so am sometimes a bit paranoid!


You have done exactly the right thing in getting your child’s eyes examined. It is good news that neither optician was able to find anything significant. Many people will see small floaters or coloured ‘blobs’ in the vision these are usually not serious and can be ignored. If they change significantly then schedule another examination at your optometrist.

AndyHepworth Wed 24-Jul-13 17:13:34


My son is slightly colour blind, and has problems distinguishing murky shades of green/orange and sometimes other colours in that range like brown and red. Can any optician test him to gauge the problem, or,does he need to see a specialist? And if so, would that be thought our GP?

If you go to you will be able to find your local optician. Mention your concerns and they will be able to do a simple test for colour vision.

AndyHepworth Wed 24-Jul-13 17:12:10


When should a child have a first sight test when both parents have worn glasses since around 8 or 9?

It’s very important for all children to have a full eye exam at least before they start school, as it checks eye health as well as vision. It becomes more important if parents have an underlying health conditions; with that written simply wearing glasses doesn’t indicate a serious underlying condition its best to book a full eye exam (which is covered free of charge by the NHS for all under 16 year olds). If you go to can uncover a local independent practice.

AndyHepworth Wed 24-Jul-13 17:11:03


My 4 year-old DD has recently started wearing glasses for long sight and astigmatism (which she's taken to well, fortunately). I felt a bit guilty that I hadn't noticed but was told that children can accommodate really well, but this strains the eyes and can cause a squint. I wasn't really looking for signs of long sight in her as I have (had, thanks laser surgery) short sight and astigmatism, as does hubby to a minor extent.

A few questions! Is it possible that she will grow out of the long sight? Why is it so common (according to our optician) in children? Is it possible that DD will eventually have short sight too? Am I correct in thinking that it's unlikely that she'll grow out of the astigmatism?

Well done on having your daughter’s eyes examined at four years old. It is surprising the number of children who have never had an examination. It sounds like you have had exactly the right advice. Some children who have long-sightedness may develop a squint from focusing the eyes but this usually isn't the case. A low degree of long-sight (hyperopia) is normal in children and usually will change as the child ages. It is difficult to comment on specific cases, the best thing to do is to keep taking your daughter for eye examinations as recommended as they will be able to tell you how the eyes are changing.

AndyHepworth Wed 24-Jul-13 17:09:31


DD (14mo) has just been diagnosed with severe myopia (minus 15 in one eye, minus 16 in the other). Her glasses have been ordered and are coming this week. Is there any chance this is going to get better as she gets older? (I'm pretty short-sighted too (minus 8.5), and mine has got worse since I was little.)

Unfortunately it is unlikely that the myopia will improve and it is difficult to offer a detailed response unless we were to see your daughter. More positively spectacle lenses will over coming years becoming thinner and more suitable for myopic people & of course there are advances in contact lenses which could offer a correction solution.

AndyHepworth Wed 24-Jul-13 17:08:08


I am short-sighted, diagnosed at 21.
I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes 7 weeks ago. I am 36, with a healthy lifestyle therefore my doctor thinks it's probably down to genetics rather than diet......I am taking Metformin 500g, which will be upped at my appointment tomorrow as my sugar levels are not yet under control. I had my first Retinopathy Screening yesterday, my question is:
When should the dilating drops have worn off?
I had them put in at 10am, my eyes were still half dilated 17 hours later. Initially I could not see anything close up, and could hardly see at all in the sunlight. This improved through the day, but took 8 hours before I could see enough to read. When I woke up this morning they were no longer dilated but very sensitive to sunlight. Today, they still do not feel quite 'right'.
Is this normal? Is this okay? Will this happen every time? The leaflet I was given said 4-6 hours....
Also, my sight has been getting steadily worse over the last 5-6 years. Could this be down to the diabetes? (I am not sure how long I have had it) and will my sight improve once my diabetes is stable?
Thankyou smile

Sorry to hear about your diagnosis of diabetes. It sounds like you are getting exactly the right screening, as all diabetics should have a dilated examination to look at the retina at the back of the eyes. Uncontrolled blood sugar levels can cause changes in the prescription, which may be why your sight feels like it’s getting worse. Diabetics are entitled to an examination at the optometrist paid for by the NHS. Have a look at to find your local practice. Be sure to tell the optometrist about your diabetes and the changes in your vision. Some people’s eyes do take longer than others to recover from the dilating drops. It should slowly return to normal, if you get any intense pain or discomfort in the eyes after the drops go and speak to the screening centre again immediately.

AndyHepworth Wed 24-Jul-13 17:05:20


My 6yo daughter has an accommodative squint and a +25 prescription. I had a squint as a child but was corrected by surgery.

I was told by optician at hospital when she was 4 that she would only need the glasses until she was around 9, as they would 'retrain the brain' as it were. However another optician several months later was perplexed at the notion of 'growing out of the glasses' and said she would be wearing them for life.

What's your opinion? DD has become very dependant on them- never had to be encouraged to wear them- ever!

Her squint is worse than ever, sadly.

It is really good that you found out your daughter had a squint at a young age. The vision is much more likely to develop normally when these conditions are discovered early, which is why we recommend an eye examination before a child starts school. It is really difficult to say how your daughter’s eyes will develop and what I would suggest is that you find a local optician and make sure you go for check ups as often as advised.

AndyHepworth Wed 24-Jul-13 17:04:03


My son (9) has a black 'floater' in his right eye which he can always see and which troubles him greatly. The optician's seen it and says it's normal, but can anything be done about it? He's constantly aware of it and I think it affects his attention span.

Floaters are common and usually not serious. If the optician has looked and say’s it normal then what will often happen is that the brain learns to ignore it. If there is any change, if it gets larger or he gets more of them, then go straight back to the optician and have it looked at again. Sometimes the optician will have an even better look inside of the eye by putting drops in that make the pupil of the eye larger.

AndyHepworth Wed 24-Jul-13 17:01:57


Both my DC have been diagnosed with Keratoconus - they both have to use contact lenses at the moment with varying degrees of improvement. My DS condition is escalating. My understanding is that this is not curable and they are unlikely to be able to have cornea transplants in the UK on the NHS (according to their specialist). Is this true? The only info I can find is American based

Sorry to hear that both of your children have keratoconus, which is a progressive change in the shape and thinning of the cornea at the front of the eye. There are a number of treatment options, in early stages vision may be adequate with glasses or soft contact lenses. As the distortion progresses then rigid contact lenses are used to mask the distortion. Only if the distortion is very severe would a corneal transplant be necessary. Newer treatments are being investigated including something called corneal cross-linking to try and strengthen the cornea. The treatment options are really best discussed with the specialist.

AndyHepworth Wed 24-Jul-13 17:00:37


My 7yo has severe ASD and is non verbal. We had never noticed anything obvious with his eyesight, but, since DH and I both wear glasses (DH is short sighted and started wearing glasses in puberty, I have an astigmatim that wasn't noticed until I was in my 20s) we managed to get a referral to an orthoptist to have his sight tested. My 9yo started to have trouble with his vision at 7 and is becoming progressively more short sighted as he grows and we've told he'll end up with a higher prescription than DH, which is what prompted us to ask for the referral, despite no obvious problems.

Anyhow, he had his test last week and we were quite shocked. He has an astigmatism as strong as mine and is long sighted - +5.75.

I'm now feeling guilty about having not asked for him to be tested sooner, as having such poor vision can't have helped him at all, when he already has so many challenges. I know that a lot of long sightedness in small children resolves as they grow, but I'm worried that we've left it too late and done lasting damage to his eyesight.

I can understand your concerns but what is really positive is that you have now had your child’s eyes examined and found out that they require glasses. Despite being seven years old having uncorrected long sight and astigmatism does not necessarily mean the eyes will have become ‘lazy’ or vision development damaged. The best thing to do is ask the optometrist at their next eye examination.

AndyHepworth Wed 24-Jul-13 16:59:24


I suffer from a lot of headaches. Worse just now because my computer use at work has increased. I went to the doctor and she said get an eye test, I did and got a new prescription for short sight (much worse in 1 eye). The optician recommended I wear the glasses all the time now. I tried really hard to do this but just have to take them off if I have a headache, especially in front of a computer.

Do I go back to the gp and say I can't bear to wear the glasses because the headaches are so bad? Or do I go back to the optician?

My first thought is very much to revisit the previous optician and discuss the problems you are having with them. The whole area of computer vision is interesting, especially if you are a heavy user. Many opticians have access to spectacle lenses that have been specifically designed for computer use to ease eyestrain from heavy computer use. As I’m sure you will; mention to the optician your current lifestyle requirements (i.e. significant computer use) and they will be able to help select suitable frame and lenses which may well reduce your headaches. If the headaches persist it would be worthwhile visiting your GP again and mentioning that your eyes have been examined.

AndyHepworth Wed 24-Jul-13 16:57:21


How long should I be free of contact lenses in a day?

My optician told me to reduce wear.

I have astigmatism but do not wear toric lenses.
Monthly disposables -3.50 and - 3

Can you tell me benefits of a toric lens as I have worn lenses for 20 years and it has only just been mentioned.

My eyes/brain don't react we'll to change.


There is no correct answer for how many hours you should be free of contact lenses in a day. The best person to ask is your optician. They will have had a good look at the health of your eyes and be able to advise. Nowadays there are contact lens materials that are extremely permeable to oxygen (let your eyes breath), and less likely to dry out and many people can wear them all day comfortably. You require a toric lens if your eyes have astigmatism (think rugby ball shaped rather than football shaped). The benefits of these will be clearer and more comfortable vision. Ask your optician if you can try some.

AndyHepworth Wed 24-Jul-13 16:56:21


I have no current concerns for either child but I knew from the age of 9 that I needed glasses but never told anyone. People only found out through routine school checks when I was 13... What would be the signs that a child needs glasses?

It is often difficult for a parent to notice the signs of poor eyesight in their children, with so many other things on a parent’s plate. Unquestionably the best step is to book a full eye examination at a local optician where not only vision, but eye health will be considered. This can highlight any possible vision requirements which will help immensely with a child's education along with eye health, many of which can be treated.

AndyHepworth Wed 24-Jul-13 16:06:28


My 22 mth daughter keeps crossing her eyes. And occasionally one moves further in when she does this. Generally her eyes move in same direction and the crossing seems to be voluntary (she does it when tired of eating mostly to try and get a reaction from me). Should I be concerned about this behaviour? I myself am extremely short sighted and have been since very young.

Great question, you are right to ask about your daughter’s eyes if they seem to cross. There is no harm in voluntary crossing the eyes. The best thing to do is find your local practice on and have her eyes checked. The optometrist will check not just that she can see clearly, and is not long or short-sighted, but also how the eyes work together.

AndyHepworth Wed 24-Jul-13 16:04:51


My 18mo DC has glasses to correct her squint as she is more long sighted in one eye.

Do you have any tips for getting her to wear them. So far I am managing a couple of 3 minute sessions per day before she pulls them off and wont let them near her. I dont want to push it too much and put her off!

It can be frustrating trying to get a young child to wear glasses. The good news is that by discovering the squint at such an early age and the need for glasses now, your daughter is much more likely to grow up with good vision. To try and make them keep them on, the first thing is to ask the optician to make sure they fit properly. No one wants to wear uncomfortable glasses, and we certainly wouldn't want them to slip so she has to look over the top. It can then be worth while trying to find a fun activity to do together whilst wearing the glasses. Maybe watching a video or reading increasing the wearing time gradually.

Click here for some suggestions on how to encourage your child to wear glasses.

AndyHepworth Wed 24-Jul-13 15:56:45


I'm in my 40s & I've never visited an Optician before. What eye tests should be included in a standard check-up - eg do all Opticians check intra-ocular pressures & look at your retinas or do some just check visual acuity.

All full eye exams will cover all the aspects you have highlighted, as I often say the key thing an eye exam will cover is not just vision but the health of the front and back of your eyes along with a few other conditions. The optometrist (ophthalmic optician) will also do any other tests they consider necessary. A really good first step would be locate your nearest independent practice on

AndyHepworth Wed 24-Jul-13 15:54:56


My mum and I are both very short sighted. Is there anything I could do for my son to help him have the best eyesight possible? He's only 18 months old. My optician has checked his eyes are 'healthy' already.

It’s great that you have already had his eyes examined. The best course of action is to certainly keep on top of the eye check ups at your local practice. An important part of those eye exams is to ensure both eyes work together as well as checking for short-sightedness so make an appointment at least every year or as often as the optometrist suggests. There is a lot of research going on presently around short-sightedness (myopia) it’s early days but there is some evidence spending time playing outdoors helps.

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