Poor Driver Eyesight: 1 in 5 Australian Drivers Can’t See Road Signs

A recent Optometry Australia survey reveals some startling facts about the difficulty drivers have seeing road signs.

The 2020 Vision Index report revealed that 19% of drivers, aged 35 to 54, struggle to see road signs when they’re driving during the day. At night the problem gets worse, with 25% admitting that they find it hard to read signs. This is a very startling fact and shows that the dangers of poor driver eyesight, especially at night, is a very concerning issue.

The serious dangers of poor driver eyesight

Not being able to see road signs obviously has serious safety issues.

Optometrist Sophie Koh, the national professional services adviser for Optometry Australia, is not surprised by the high figures. She believes there is “a myriad of reasons why people experience blurry vision when driving”.

Although many people struggle to see because they either need glasses, or are updating their existing ones, there are non-glasses related reasons for blurred distance vision when driving home after a long day in the office such as “dry eyes and eye fatigue due to prolonged near work during the day,” says Koh.

People age 35 to 54 also start to develop common preventable eye diseases, such as early cataracts, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration.

Cataracts, for example, at its early stages, causes increased glare sensitivity when driving at night. People in this age group may complain of more glare from car headlights, which affects their clarity and confidence when driving.

Eyesight requirements to attain a driver’s license

Australian drivers in most states need to read an eye chart to pass the vision test in order to receive a driver’s licence. They also need to disclose if they have vision problems that could affect their ability to drive safely.

Eyesight issues must be listed as a condition on your licence in NSW, Victoria, SA and WA. If you have a condition listed on your licence and are found to be driving without glasses or contact lenses you could be fined or may receive demerit points.

“I think the public needs to be more aware that good vision for life is not just about how far down you see on an eye chart,” says Koh.

If you’re having trouble seeing road signs or you’re squinting to “see better”, like 22% of people do at night or 15% during the day, you need to book an eye test with your local optometrist to have your eyes checked.

Don’t risk it on the road, book an eye examination for a piece of mind

A visit to your optometrist will help you understand why you are struggling to see clearly when you’re driving. It is recommended that people under 40 have their eyes tested every two to three years, while people 40-65 should see their optometrist every two years and those over 65 should be tested annually.

If you are having troubles seeing roads signs visit your local Eyecare Plus practice to book your next eye test.

Coronavirus: Optometrists Are Taking Immediate Action

Optometrists in Australia are being proactive about putting in place procedures to stop the spread of the coronavirus, which, the World Health Organisation has declared a global health emergency, only the sixth time the WHO has declared an international emergency of this kind.

The virus is reportedly spreading from person-to-person. According to NSW Health advice, a person can catch the virus if they’re in close proximity to an infected person after only 15 minutes.

Close contact means being face-to-face with an infected person for at least 15 minutes or being in the same room for at least two hours, as someone who has coronavirus when that person was infectious.

Patients preparing to see their optometrist will be asked two questions before all appointments and again on arrival at the optometry practice:

  • Have you returned from a coronavirus affected area in China in the past two weeks?
  • Have you returned from China with symptoms of fever, cough, sore throat or breathing difficulties?

If your answer is ‘Yes’ to either of the above questions health authorities in Australia have advised that it is safest for you to ‘not’ see your optometrist until after the incubation period of 14 days has passed.

As of early February, the coronavirus outbreak had killed more than 362 people and infected over 17,300 globally. It is now starting to spread beyond China with one person from the Philippines dead from the virus.

In Australia, it has been reported that there are currently 12 people diagnosed with the virus – four in NSW, four in Victoria, two in Queensland and two in South Australia.

Coronavirus initially causes flu-like symptoms of fever, coughing, sore throat and breathing difficulties. It can lead to pneumonia and in 2.9 percent of cases people will die from the virus, according to the Australian Department of Health.

The incubation period is often longer than other viruses such as the flu and can take two to 10 days to show symptoms. During the incubation period the virus remains contagious.

If you have travelled to an affected area and, within 14 days of travel, have developed a fever, cough, sore throat or shortness of breath or if you have had contact with a person with confirmed coronavirus, you should isolate yourself from other people.

If you show these signs seek medical assistance straight away by contacting your GP or your emergency department or call the health direct helpline on 1800 022 222.

Common Australian Eye Health Myths & Facts

Australians regard their eyesight as their most important sense.

This was one of the main findings highlighted in the 2020 Vision Index Report released by Optometry Australia, the peak body for optometrists in Australia.

An apt year for the report to come out, with 2020, known as a term synonymous with perfect vision.

The report surveyed 1,000 Australians exploring their habits, beliefs and attitudes towards their eye health, and covered topics such as glasses, contact lenses, eye conditions, disease, nutrition, workplace, driving, sport and digital behaviour.

With 76% of us regarding our eyesight as our most important sense, 60% are worried about eyesight quality and more than half of us (57%) know we need a regular annual eye examination.

These key findings illustrate just how important Australians value their eyesight. For many, however, there is still a level of complacency about our sight, as more than a third of us (35%) don’t have regular eye checks and, incredibly, 12% of Australians have never seen an optometrist in their life.

In most cases we will only see an optometrist if we have problems seeing things, either; far away (82%) or up close (81%).

Nearly a third of us (31%) still believe the myth that if we eat carrots our eyesight will improve. And, whilst it originates from WW2 propaganda which popularised the notion that carrots help you see better in the dark, it doesn’t mean there isn’t an element of truth to it.

Carrots are high in antioxidants beta carotene and lutein; which a recent study showed has several beneficial effects on our eye health, including being able to improve or even prevent age-related macular disease, the leading cause of blindness and vision impairment.

Research has shown that a variety of vegetables containing lutein, and zeaxanthin, will help improve our eye health more than carrots, including spinach, turnip greens, broccoli, kale and corn.

The 2020 Vision Index report also shows the link between good eye health and preventable chronic diseases, highlighting that overall good eye health impacts our general health and wellbeing.

A regular appointment to see your optometrist covers much more than a prescription for your glasses. It also provides you with a comprehensive eye examination which can help identify eye conditions and diseases that, most of the time, can be treated if picked up early.

Visit your local Eyecare Plus practice for your next comprehensive eye exam.

7 Actionable Tips To Protect Your Eyes From Bushfire Smoke

As a result of worsening bushfire conditions across Australia, a thick dense smoke haze has smothered parts of the country for weeks on end resulting in people suffering from severe eye irritations, such as burning or itchy eyes. As a result, it has never been a more important time to stay on top of your eye health and take immediate steps to protect your eyes from hazardous bushfire smoke.

With the Air Quality Index pushed to record levels – beyond 500, over 2.5 times the ‘hazardous’ rating – in many cities and a suffocating 5,109 in Canberra on New Year’s Day, optometrists have seen an influx of patients with increased eye discomfort and irritation as a result of the extra particles in the air from the bushfire smoke.

Luke Arundel, Optometry Australia’s Chief Clinical Officer, suggests the following tips to help mitigate the burning and stinging effects of smoke to the eyes.

Protect your eyes from bushfire smoke by applying these simple 7 tips:

  • Lubricate – One of the best ways to alleviate irritation in your eyes is to lubricate them with eye drops or artificial tears which you can buy over the counter. People with underlying conditions already using eye drops may wish to double their application until the smoke dissipates.
  • Don’t rub – Be careful to NOT rub your eyes which can worsen the irritation.
  • Take a break from contacts – Contact lens wearers may find smoke particularly problematic and should give their eyes a break from contact lens use if their eyes are experiencing irritation.
  • Cool your eyes – Lying down with a cold compress over your eyes can be soothing.
  • Stay indoors – particularly if you have an underlying condition that makes you more sensitive to smoke, such as dry eye, it’s best to stay indoors as much as possible.
  • Wear glasses or goggles – Specialty goggles that are often prescribed to patients with dry eye can be an effective option for people experiencing sensitivity to smoke in the air. And close-fitting glasses or sunglasses will provide at least some barrier to particle pollution.
  • See your optometrist – If your symptoms persist, make an appointment to see your optometrist who may be able to prescribe a more specific treatment.

If you need help because you’re suffering from burning or stinging eyes, contact your local Eyecare Plus optometrist to book an appointment.

How to Relieve Digital Eye Strain

Just two hours in front of a digital screen can cause your eyes to feel strained. The average Australian spends 10 hours a day staring at some form of screen. This is not surprising given the increased dependency on computers, tablets and mobile devices for work and school.

Digital eye strain can be caused by:

  • Poor lighting
  • Screen glare and blue light
  • Improper viewing distance from devices
  • Not blinking enough
  • Poor posture

Digital eye strain affects all age groups but can be relieved by following a few easy steps.  

1. USE THE 20-20-20 RULE

Each time you use your digital device, take a 20 second break from the screen every 20 minutes and look at something 20 feet away. 

2. POSITION YOUR COMPUTER MONITOR

Keep your computer monitor at arm’s length for proper viewing distance and have the top of the monitor near or below eye level to avoid straining your eyes and neck. 

3. BLINK OFTEN

Remind yourself to blink frequently to prevent your eyes from drying out. 

4. GET REGULAR EYE TESTS

Unattended eye conditions may worsen digital eye strain. Make sure you have regular comprehensive eye tests every year, regardless of whether you are a heavy digital device user or not. 

5. CONSIDER BLUE LIGHT LENSES

Wearing glasses with blue light lenses is a popular way to decrease symptoms of digital eye strain. They look like regular glasses but feature a protective lens coating that helps filter out harmful blue light from reaching your eyes, keeping your eyes relaxed. 

Visit your local Eyecare Plus to find out more about blue light glasses available.

How Blue Light Affects your Eyes

Many of us spend the bulk of our day staring at digital screens. Reading this article means there’s a good chance you’re looking at one right now. Most screens emit blue light. 

Light visible to the human eye is made up the colours red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. These colours vary in wavelength and frequency. The blue, indigo and violet lights are higher frequency and energy. Studies suggest that, over time, exposure to these high energy blue lights could cause both short and long-term damage to your eyes.

Fluorescent and LED lights as well as LED screens found in televisions, computers and mobile phones emit high amounts of blue light. It is the blue light from devices held close to the eye that is most likely to cause eye strain and retinal damage due to their proximity to the eye.

Higher energy blue light flickers more than longer wavelengths of light. This flickering creates a glare that can reduce contrast and affect clarity. This can then cause eyestrain, headaches, physical and mental fatigue.

Our eyes natural filters don’t provide sufficient protection against blue light rays. Over the longer term, prolonged exposure to blue light may cause retinal damage and contribute to age-related macular degeneration, which can lead to permanent loss of vision. Chronic exposure to blue light has also been shown to have detrimental effects on our general health and disturb regular sleep patterns.

Exposure to blue light can be reduced with a coating on spectacle lenses that blocks the blue light. This can be applied to spectacles for everyday or simply ones designed for computer and screen use. Blue light filters can also be applied to specific screens that are used. These options can help you relieve digital eye strain.

Watch the below video to find out more about the affects of Blue Light.

5 Tips for buying the right eyewear for your child

Wearing glasses can be a daunting thought for most kids. Remove the stress by following these five tips to ensure you buy the perfect pair that your child will wear and love. 

1. Decide between plastic or metal frames
Most frames are made of either plastic or metal. Plastic frames are often more popular than metal for its choice of colours, shapes, lightness and sturdiness. One drawback, however, is that the nose bridge of plastic frames is set with the design, so may have the tendency to slide down the nose if the frame doesn’t fit properly. 

2. Proper Fit
Fit and comfort come hand in hand. Children have different face shapes and nose bridge heights from adults. If you’re choosing to buy a plastic frame, it’s best to avoid purchasing them online as you cannot determine the nose bridge fit. Visit an optometrist with a wide range of kids frames and get recommendations from the optical dispenser, who are professionally trained to fit glasses on all face shapes. 

3. Style
Kids are more likely to wear glasses with frames they like. The good news is Eyecare Plus practices have a great range of colours, patterns and shapes to choose from. Have your child try on a couple of frames they like, and more importantly, have them pick the pair they will wear. 

4. Durability
You want your child to have a frame that will last the playground and their active lifestyle. Find frames with spring hinges as these will be able to flex outwards without breaking. 

5. Back up pair
Remove the stress of losing their glasses by keeping a spare pair at home. This becomes very handy if your child accidentally leaves their glasses on the school bus or classroom.

Does your child need their eyes checked? Find your local Eyecare Plus to book an appointment.

Protect your eyes from UV damage

Our eyes are more sensitive to ultraviolet (UV) rays than our skin. From an early age, the focus has been on protecting our skin with sunscreen. But what about our eyes?

How does UV affect the eye?

A healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise and a nutritious diet benefits overall physical and mental well-being, as well as the eyes. Eat a varied and healthy diet. There is no scientific evidence suggesting that certain vitamins and minerals prevent glaucoma or delay its progress. However, carotenoids (especially lutein and zeaxanthin), antioxidants (vitamins C and E), vitamins A and D, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids may all contribute to better vision.

When does it start to affect us?

The risk of eye damage from UV rays is cumulative throughout life. That makes it extremely important to start protecting your eyes from an early age. If you haven’t been protecting your eyes, make sure you start protecting them immediately.

How to protect your eyes from UV damage?

Wear good quality sunglasses when you are outdoors, including when it’s cloudy outside. Look for sunglasses that meet the Australian Standards for UV protection by checking that they are labelled as category 2, 3 or 4, and have an Eye Protection Factor (EPF) of 9 or 10. Your optometrist can help you choose the best sunglass lenses and frame for your needs. Select a pair that sits well on your face. Protect yourself further by wearing a broad-brimmed hat.

Find your local Eyecare Plus to view the range of sunglasses available to help protect your eyes from UV Damage.