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December 2016


ARE YOUR EYES ROADWORTHY?

The end of the year is here at last!

As you begin to prepare for a well-deserved holiday, you ensure that your shopping has been done, arrangements have been made for the care of your home and pets while you are away, and your car has been serviced. Have you visited your optometrist to check that all is well with your eyes?

When it comes to driving, you rely on your eyes more than any other sense. Your eyes are constantly in motion, focusing and refocusing as objects approach, and having to adjust to distractions, such as oncoming headlights or the glare of the setting sun. This can cause them to become strained, and impact on safe driving. As well as examining your eyes, your optometrist will advise you on how to minimise eye strain while driving.

Having a complete eye examination can rule out cataracts or other problems that may interfere with your vision while driving. If a problem is detected early, it can be managed more effectively.

If you wear glasses or contact lenses, have your prescription checked in case there have been changes since your last eye examination. Always wear the prescribed eyewear while driving. Make sure that your glasses are clean, that there are no smudges that could interfere with vision. The same applies to the windscreen of the car, both inside and out. Particles of dust and dirt cause light waves to scatter, causing a halo effect, which can be particularly troublesome at night.

Glare is one of the biggest culprits in causing eye strain while driving. Intense sunlight reflected off the surface of the road, bonnet and windscreen of the car, street lights, and oncoming headlights can be distracting and sometimes dangerous to drivers. A particularly difficult time is in the early morning or late afternoon when the sun is on the horizon, and little protection can be received by the car's sun visor. Your optometrist may recommend polarized sunglasses, which not only protect your eyes from dangerous UV rays, but significantly reduce reflected glare. Ideally, tinted lenses should have anti-reflective coatings on the front and the back to decrease glare and surface reflections, and improve vision. To avoid glare at night, make sure the headlights of the car are clean and accurately aligned.

If you are driving long distances, changing light conditions can trigger eye strain and fatigue. Because the car's windscreen filters out some light, a standard photochromic lens which darkens on exposure to specific types of light, may not offer sufficient protection. However, your optometrist may suggest a lens which reacts to more general light, and will react quickly and effectively to changing light conditions even inside the car. An anti-reflective coating would combat glare as well.

Most people have decreased vision capacity at night, but it's possible to correct for common night driving problems by remembering a few simple tips. A tried and tested suggestion that has been around for a long time is to watch the white line when oncoming traffic blinds you, rather than looking directly at oncoming traffic with bright headlights.While it may be difficult to find things to look at in the dark, try to keep your eyes moving and look at as many things as you can along the road; keeping your eyes constantly focused straight ahead leads to fatigue.

If your car has a dimmer for the console lights, lower the light level as low as it can go with you still being able to see your speed. This decreases the glare off your windshield and makes it easier for your eyes to maintain focus on the road. Increase the distance between your car and the car ahead; as well as being safer, it prevents your headlights from blinding the driver ahead of you.

Keeping your eyes well-rested and preventing them from becoming strained in the first place should always be a top priority. Take breaks when driving long distances to reduce eye strain and fatigue.

You have probably packed sunscreen, but did you remember the "sunscreen for your eyes"? Sunglasses are essential to protect your eyes against the harmful UV rays from the sun. Make sure they offer at least 99% protection from both UVA and UVB light.

Have a safe trip and a wonderful holiday. Return rested, refreshed and ready to face 2017. May it be a year of peace and happiness for all!


ROSES ARE RED, VIOLETS ARE BLUE

The first question is how do we know that? How do we see different colours? The second question is why should we care? Apart from brightening the world, does colour really matter in our daily lives?

How Do We See Colour?

We are able to perceive and differentiate colour because of rods and cones, specialised cells in the light-sensitive retina at the back of the eye. There are about 120 million rods and about 6 to 7 million cones in the human eye. The rods perceive images in black, white and shades of grey, while the cones are sensitive to colour. Not all the cones are alike, and they respond differently to different wave lengths of colour. When light from an object enters the eye and reaches the retina, combinations of the cones are stimulated depending on the wave length of the light. A signal is sent along the optic nerve to the visual centre of the brain where the information is processed and the colour perceived.

Why Colour Matters

The process does not end there! The interpretation of colour is dependent on, among other things, personal experience, emotions, cultural and religious factors. It informs choices we make, how we feel, how we decorate our homes, and how we react to certain situations. It even plays a role in our language and how we express ourselves, for example we feel blue, see red in anger, are green with envy. Colour plays a pivotal role in our daily visual experiences, from stopping at a red traffic light to judging whether the fruit we are buying is ripe or not, from deciding what to wear each day to a sense of national identity in the flag of our country.

Certain colours and colour relationships can be eye irritants, while other colours and colour combinations are soothing. The appropriate use of colour can maximise productivity, minimise visual fatigue, and relax the whole body.

Research shows that colour helps us process visual scenes more efficiently than black and white does, and psychologists report that colour images are remembered better than those in monochrome. It stands to reason then that colour enhances learning, and can improve reading and comprehension, particularly in children who have difficulty in these areas.

Colour and Marketing

Without being consciously aware of it, we buy certain products based on colour. This is painstakingly researched by specialists in marketing, whose job it is to ensure that products catch the shopper's eye and convey information within the short time frame in which buying decisions are made. Colour increases brand recognition; for example, without needing to read the name, we know the difference between Coke and Pepsi. People respond to colour adverts more often than they do to the same adverts in black and white.

Colour and Taste

Our sense of taste is often fooled by our sense of sight! While the taste buds on the tongue play an essential role in determining taste, our eyes send signals to the brain before the taste buds get the chance, and this can predetermine how we will experience what we are about to eat. Colour is often the first element noticed in the appearance of a food product. Humans begin to associate certain colours with various types of foods from birth, and equate these colours to certain tastes and flavours throughout life. For example, we may expect yellow pudding to have a banana or lemon flavour, and red jelly beans to taste like cherry or cinnamon. If the colour of a food product does not match our expectations, we may perceive its flavour differently.

Colour and Emotion

Whether we all perceive or appreciate colours in the same way or not doesn't change the universal emotional responses we have to them, because we respond to the different wave lengths of the various colours.

How do colours influence people? White and grey are associated with feelings of calm, balance, purity, cleanliness, and safety. Too much grey may lead to feelings of depression. Yellow and orange are colours that promote optimism and cheerfulness. Orange is thought to stimulate mental activity. Darker shades of yellow often lead to the negative interpretation of a "yellow belly" or coward. Red creates a sense of urgency and youthfulness, and is associated with physically stimulating the body, raising blood pressure, and encouraging appetite. It is often used in flags to convey a sense of a country's strength. Green stands for health, peacefulness, nature and growth. Being a relaxing colour, green has been shown to stimulate harmony in the brain and encourages a balance leading to decisiveness. Combining the stability of blue and the energy of red, wisdom and imagination are linked to purple, which is commonly associated with royalty, quality and respect. Blue is associated with peace, tranquility, strength and reliability, and is believed to stimulate productivity. Because there are no blue foods in nature, blue is thought to suppress the appetite. Black symbolises luxury, authority, power, stability, and strength, but also has connotations of fear and evil. We speak of "blackmail", a "black list" or a "black hole".

Symbolism of Colour

Colours are imbued with great symbolic power, which often dates back many centuries to beliefs and practices of ancient cultures.

Red implies life force, health and passion. In many ancient cultures garnets or red clothing were worn to enhance health and ward off disease. In a wide range of cultures, white symbolises purity and innocence, and white robes and garments are worn to convey spiritual and/or sexual purity. Even in movies, white is used to portray good; a perfect example is the cowboy with the white hat in Westerns! Many ancient cultures believed that black was the colour of mystery, particularly the mystery of death, about which people were "in the dark". Purple's status as the colour of royalty and wealth stems from the rarity and cost of the dye originally used to produce it. Because only wealthy rulers could afford to buy and wear fabrics dyed with purple, it became associated with the imperial classes of Rome, Egypt and Persia. Purple also came to represent spirituality and holiness, because the ancient emperors, kings and queens who wore it were often considered to be gods or descendants of the gods. The primary association of the colour blue for most of recorded history was with truth, a meaning that exists today in the phrase "true blue."

This was because blue is the colour of a calm and clear sky, and it is calm reflection that leads to truth. Today, though, blue can convey sadness, and having "the blues" may relate to tears and rain; in Greek mythology, Zeus made it rain when he was sad. For obvious reasons, the colour green represents nature and the environment; more abstractly, it symbolises wisdom, which has ancient roots. There is a flipside to green in the "green-eyed monster", its association with jealousy which was believed to be the opposite of celestial selfless wisdom. In ancient cultures, such as Egypt and China, where gods were associated with the sun, yellow was the highest and noblest of colours.

In spite of all the universal beliefs and interpretations, colour is a private sensation, a personal reaction governed by each person's unique preferences and experiences.


CHOOSING THE PERFECT FRAME

In an ideal world, you would have dozens of pairs of glasses in different colours, shapes and styles to suit your every mood and look, but in reality, glasses can be expensive and you are limited to just one or two pairs. It can be overwhelming being confronted by many different frames and trying to find the perfect one, but there are certain guidelines that can be followed to help narrow down your options. Apart from the obvious considerations such as the shape of your face, your personal style and colour preferences, take into account your lifestyle, personality, and the impression you want to make.

FACE SHAPE

While the choice of frames is determined to a large extent by face shape, "rules" can be broken or at least bent to accommodate personal taste. In general, a frame should balance and contrast the features of the face, and be in proportion to the rest of the face, while also complementing your personal style.

Round Face - Frames that are square or rectangular tend to be wider than a round face, elongating it and creating the appearance of a slimmer face. While round frames are not recommended, if you do prefer that shape, avoid small round frames, choosing larger frames that do not get lost in the face. Generally, whatever the shape, large frames work best on round faces. Plain coloured thick rimmed frames are a better choice than rimless ones.

Oval Face - If you have an oval face, almost any frame shape would look good on you. The classic advice, though, is to go for a geometric shape with a strong bridge over the nose. To balance broad cheek bones with a narrower forehead and chin, select frames that are thicker or darker on the top than the bottom; cat-eye shaped frames which give the face an instant lift, are perfect for an oval face. Over-large frames are believed to interfere with the symmetry of an oval face, but if you prefer them and have the confidence to wear them, opt for frames with an angular edge.

Square Face - Frames that soften the angularity of the jaw and sit high on the bridge of the nose look best on square faces. Oval or round glasses balance and add a thinner appearance to the angles of a square face. Generally people with square-shaped faces are advised to avoid square shaped frames; however, if you like that shape, they are available in a large variety of sizes, materials and colours, so it is possible to find one to suit you. Look for thin metal frames in neutral colours, or choose frames with detail on the temples.

Diamond Face - Accentuate your cheek bones and draw attention away from a narrow forehead and chin with frames that sweep up or are wider than the cheekbones, such as cat-eye and oval frames. Boxy and narrow frames add width to the face, and detract from delicate features rather than enhancing them. If you want to wear a pair of square glasses, a good choice would be half transparent frames that are darker on top and transparent at the bottom. Alternatively, go for thinner frames which soften the face.

Heart-Shaped Face - Frames that balance the width of the forehead with the narrowness of the chin are ideal. Glasses with low-set temples and bottom heavy frame lines will add width to the narrower part of your face. Round or square glasses with curved edges draw attention away from a broad, high forehead, and rimless styles prevent the face from looking top-heavy. It is advisable to steer clear of styles that draw attention to the forehead, such as those with decorative temples or embellished tops. If you do enjoy patterns and colour, experiment with decorated frames, but avoid too much colour, rather trying a frame in a solid bright colour.

SKIN TONE

Just as the shape of your face helps determine which frames look best, so does your skin tone.

Warm Skin Tone - If you have a yellow, bronze or golden cast to your skin, stay away from white, black and contrasting colours such as pastels. Instead, the best frame colours for you are light tortoise shell, browns, gold, beige, and olive green.

Cool Skin Tone - If your skin has pink or blue undertones, avoid colours that make you look washed out, and instead opt for frames in silver, black, dark tortoise shell, pink, purple, blue, mauve and grey.

HAIR COLOUR

Black hair - Dark hair looks best with darker coloured frames and tortoise shell. For a more interesting look, try deep reds or blues.

White and grey hair - Lift these hair colours by choosing brightly coloured or patterned frames, and wear them with a confident attitude!

Red hair - Red hair is vibrant, so it's the perfect hair colour for strong powerful frames. Redheads look good wearing black, tortoise shell and forest green frames.

Brown hair - Different shades of brown hair invite different frame choices. If your hair is a lighter brown, try pastel colours or black for contrast. Frames with warmer undertones, such as tortoise shell, dark greens or even cream, are best if your hair has shades of red.

Blonde hair - Blondes with warm undertones in their hair look best in warm colours, including tortoise shell, bronze and peach shades. For blonde hair with cool undertones, choose pinks, blues and even black, but avoid yellow or gold.

EYE COLOUR

The colour of your eyes can have a subtle influence on the look of your glasses, and vice versa. Selecting frames close to your eye colour will reinforce your natural palette and create depth, while contrasting colours tend to have a more dramatic effect, drawing attention to your eyes.

Green Eyes - Frames with rich earthy tones and golds will make your eyes stand out, while shades of pink, purple and opal will give greater contrast.

Blue Eyes - For blue eyes, coordinate with blue and grey tones, or choose frames in contrasting colours such as rich browns and oranges for a bolder effect.

Hazel Eyes - To bring out the gold flecks in hazel eyes try browns and greens, and even greys when choosing frames.

Brown Eyes - Brown eyes are complemented by other warm tones, but if you want to highlight them, opt for shades of green to create a contrast.

LIFESTYLE

The frames you choose reflect your identity, lifestyle and personality, as well as the image you want to project. Do you work in the corporate world where you need to instill confidence in your clients? Are you in the creative or fashion arena where your personal choices showcase your talent? Do your frames need to be sturdy to fit in with your active lifestyle? When will you wear your glasses; all the time or only for certain activities like reading or computer work? Are you able to have more than one pair of glasses to complement different outfits or occasions?

ITS NOT ALL ABOUT STYLE!

While personal preference is the major consideration when choosing a frame, there are certain factors on which your optometrist needs to offer expert advice. Is the frame you have chosen appropriate for your prescription? Does it fit your face properly to allow for comfort and optimal vision?


Happy Holidays!

Like I always say, I'm just an old pair of glasses. Who am I to be giving advice? But every year, my friends - a collection of sunglasses, contact lenses and spectacles like me - ask me to give their owners some tips for the Silly Season.

I get really tired of repeating myself. So this year, I'm going to write it all down... so I only have to say it once.

And so, without further ado, here's my two cents on taking care of your eyes and eyewear this holiday season:

1. Rest your eyes if you're driving. You spend a lot of time squinting into the sun and focusing on the road, right? Your eyes are getting worn out, and maybe you don't even realise it. Just like you need to stretch your legs regularly, take a break from the driving and rest your eyes. (Also, it'll give you a chance to stop and eat one of those petrol station burgers you know you shouldn't, but you know you will.)

2. Protect your glasses if you're flying. This sounds like it isn't even worth saying, but you won't believe how many casualties I've heard about in my time. Glasses get bent, dropped, sat on, squashed... all on an airplane ride. And don't leave your glasses behind when you get off the plane. You won't believe how many friends I've lost that way.

3. Speaking of flying, take care of your contact lenses. If a flight makes you feel dehydrated and cramped, you can imagine how they feel. The dryness of a plane is a contact lens's nemesis. Keep them moist, or don't wear them at all.

4. If you're lucky enough to be on the beach, sunglasses are your best friend. They can help to keep sand out of your eyes, even in that crazy Cape Town wind. Plus they'll protect your eyes from those infamous UV rays. True, nobody wants a sunglass tan. But that's why you wear sunscreen, huh? (I'm not even going to lecture you about THAT.)

5. Holidays are great for catching up on some reading. Of course, you'll want to take a break from the reading every now and then so you don't strain your eyes. Also, maybe stay away from reading too much fine print... unless you're reading a timeshare contract, in which case the fine print is super-important.

What more can I say? Happy Holidays, folks. I know I've been grumpy and bossy this year... and next year, I look forward to doing it all again.

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