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Eye Care Awareness Month is commemorated from 20 September to 17 October to raise awareness about the importance of eye health. With that in mind, we sat down with Candîce van Eeden, owner of Vision Works in Fourways and Dainfern, to find out everything you could possibly want to know about eye tests, glasses and contact lenses … plus a crazy fact you didn’t know about your eyes.
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How long have you been a practising optometrist?
I qualified from the University of Johannesburg in 2010 and started working in my first practice in December that year, so nine years this December. I’ve owned Vision Works Fourways for four years and Dainfern for three years and have an enormous passion for optometry. I even have a tattoo of a pair of glasses on my forearm.
What’s the number-one concern patients have about their eyes?
The main reason people come for an eye test is because they experience blurry vision in either the distance or while reading. The second reason is due to eye irritations or infections, and a close third is because they’re suffering from headaches.
Should you have an eye test if you suffer from headaches?
Most certainly yes. I find it so interesting how many people go to the extremes of seeing physiotherapists, neurologists and headaches clinics – some even go for MRI and CT scans – before going for a simple eye test as many headaches are caused by your eyes. Even if you believe you see clearly, an eye test should be the first thing you do to alleviate headaches. Tell-tale signs that your eyes are causing your headaches include pain at the back of your head (at the base), frontal lobe (forehead) or temporal lobes. The occipital lobe, the part of your brain that sees, is located at the back-bottom section of your brain, hence the headache is located there. This is very often misdiagnosed as neck or back issues. Often, there’s more pain on one side than the other, which is a sign that one eye is either doing all the work or has the larger prescription. Your headaches will also more than often come later in the day after you’ve been on a computer for some hours and aren’t nearly as severe on days off.
What eye problems can cause headaches?
The reason your eyes can cause headaches is due to any form of prescription. If you’re far-sighted (need glasses primarily for close work), you’ll get headaches when you do close work – including using your cellphone or computer, reading, knitting or sewing – for prolonged periods of time. If you’re short-sighted, you’ll get headaches from being under- or over-corrected. Under-corrected means your prescription is too weak and you have to strain or squint to see clearly, which mainly causes frontal headaches. However, the biggest cause of eye-related headaches is astigmatism; a fancy word that means your eyes are oval instead of perfectly round. This is by no means unique – pretty much everyone who wears any form of prescription has astigmatism. It’s the main form of prescription that can go undiagnosed for several years as you can see everything, but it’s slightly warped or has a mild halo. Most patients who believe they have perfect vision often have astigmatism.
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Who can wear contact lenses and at what age can you start?
This varies from patient to patient. If a child has one eye that’s significantly weaker than the other, contact lenses are the first choice of treatment at a possibly very young age. With regards to a normal prescription, I’d usually start contacts on a 10- or 11-year-old, granted I feel they can handle the responsibility of caring for and maintaining their lenses. They’ll normally start on daily lenses and can only wear them for limited hours during the day. Children aside, there are very few people who can’t wear contacts. Some people have had very negative experiences with contacts due to having dry eye, but with the correct treatment and routine we can control the eye condition and they can wear contacts again. There’s always a way to make them work.
Are glasses better for your eyes than contact lenses?
Essentially, contacts lenses (irrespective of how new or fancy they are) limit the amount of oxygen that reaches the cornea; the clear section of the front of the eye that the lens sits on. For this reason alone, glasses are always the healthier option. All of my contact lens patients have a pair of glasses because overwearing your contact lenses can lead to a number of long-term complications. Overwear is classified as anything longer than 12 hours a day. The cornea gets majority of its oxygen from the atmosphere because it has no blood vessels, so if it can’t get oxygen due to overwearing, the corneal cells will swell or die, or the corneal will warp. It’s incredibly important to respect your contact lenses.
Is it better to wear contact lenses than glasses for sporting activities?
Yes, seeing as contact lenses improve peripheral vision so you have a lower risk of facial injury when you’re playing sport. However, they’re not ideal for water sports like water polo and surfing. Contact lenses hate and repeal water, and often fall out as a result.
Can you sleep with contact lenses in?
Definitely not. There are brands available that advertise that this is an option, but the tests for those weren’t done on South Africans so it’s not recommended at all. It all comes back to the oxygen factor I just mentioned. There have also been several studies that have proven that tear quality while sleeping is completely different to when you’re awake, so the effect with regards to infection and protein build-up on the lenses is completely different.
How often should you change your contact lenses?
This depends on the brand. You get dailies, two weekly replacement monthly replacement lenses. You shouldn’t overwear your lenses after these requirements as these guidelines have been set in place to significantly reduce infection. You only have one set of eyes, so you don’t want to mess with them over something as trivial as replacing your contact lenses on time! For if you didn’t know, the wearing time is measured from the moment you open the lens holder, not the amount of days you wear the lenses. This means that if you open monthly lenses on the second day of the month, you must throw them away on the second day of the next month even if you’ve only worn them for a few days.
How often should school-aged children see an optometrist?
Everyone should have an eye test once a year irrespective of age. There are several eye conditions that are asymptomatic, therefore an annual test is necessary for every single person. I personally only test children that are six years or older, but there are some magnificent pediatric optometrists available if you feel your child needs to be tested. Some signs that they need an eye test at a young age include squinting, being overly clumsy or holding any item extremely close to their face. Remember that we were all born very far-sighted, so this is normal. A lot of babies are born with squints that will self-correct in a few months, but you shouldn’t ignore this if the squint seems unusual in any way.
Kids can be hard on glasses. Are there effective glasses for children today that last?
Each and every child with a vision problem must always have a spare pair of glasses for this exact reason. There are some really special frames available for kids these days – some can be stretched, bended and moved all over the place. This doesn’t make them break-proof, but it certainly helps.
Tell us a fun fact we probably didn’t know about our eyes.
Most people don’t know that there are tiny little bugs that live inside our eyelashes. They serve a very important purpose of keeping our lashes clean, however, in some people they overpopulate, causing red, sore, itchy and crusty eyelids. This can be easily treated, so consult your optometrist if you have any of these symptoms.
What makes the Mó eyewear range different?
We so love Mó! Vision Works Optometrists are the only holders of the brand – it’s our exclusive in-house brand – and we’re exceptionally proud of it. Mó glasses are funky, diverse, unique and very affordable. We import them from Spain and want the South African market to start adopting the same mindset that the Spanish market has, which is that you should change up your glasses every six months. You should have more pairs of glasses than shoes. When you see someone, what do they look at first – your face or your feet? My point exactly! We bring in a completely new range of Mó glasses every six months with over 100 unique styles to choose from. It’s no wonder that many of our patients walk away with more than one.
What’s the starting price of Mó frames?
Mó frames sell for R1,399 and Mó sunglasses sell for R1,500. Discovery medical aid members qualify for 20% off this price as we’re preferred providers.
What eyewear trends have you noticed recently?
The metal frame is back and in full swing! For the longest time, big, plastic frames have been in fashion, but we’re finally moving over to stunning metal frames. Brands are bringing them out in the most fantastic shapes and colours, and we’re absolutely loving it. Other styles that are still very much on trend are crystal (see-through) frames, rose gold frames and thick, chunky black frames. Round shape frames are still the number-one choice and we just adore them because optically, they’re the best.
Is Vision Works Fourways running any promos in the month of October?
We have over 10 promotions running at any given time as we pride ourselves in both quality service and value for money. One of the promotions that we run all year round is 20% off frames and lenses for Discovery medical aid members. We also have an amazing offering on our eye test as well as free frame offerings on selected ranges. Contact us for more info on promotions as there are too many to list!
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Share your top three tips for looking after your eyes.
Have an eye test every year, don’t disrespect your contact lenses and never ever compromise on the best possible health care solutions for your most precious asset.
Intercare Health Centre, Fourways Boulevard, Fourways
011 745 6782
WhatsApp: 076 017 9666
Dainfern Square Shopping Centre, Broadacres Drive, Dainfern
011 469 0543
WhatsApp: 076 860 1739
Candice, the Editor of Hello Joburg Magazine, is a coffee-drinking, fashion-obsessed lover of anything and everything lifestyle related. She’s also a self-confessed foodie, champagne enthusiast and devoted bargain hunter.