The College of Optometrists is warning people not to look directly at the sun during the solar eclipse on 20 March

Posted by optical on March 18, 2015  /   Posted in Blog


The College of Optometrists is warning people not to look directly at the sun during the solar eclipse on 20 March. The eclipse, which happens when the moon comes between the sun and the earth, will see most of northern Europe, including the UK, plunged into darkness for several minutes on the morning of the 20 March.

Whilst some parts of the world will see a total eclipse, the UK will experience a ‘partial eclipse’, meaning that we won’t quite experience total darkness. Those in Scotland and Northern England are expected to experience the darkest conditions .

Many people may be tempted to look directly at the sun as it disappears from view. However, the College of Optometrists is reminding people of the potential damage they could be doing to their eyes if they don’t protect them properly. Dr Susan Blakeney, the College of Optometrists’ Clinical Adviser, commented: “Witnessing a solar eclipse is a rare and amazing event which we’re sure many people will want to make the most of. We just want to make sure people do so safely, without putting their sight, many people’s most precious sense, at risk. You should never look directly at the sun and that applies when there’s a total or partial eclipse as well. This is because the radiation emitted by the sun is so powerful it may cause a solar burn of the retina.”

By following the College of Optometrists’ advice, members of the public will be able to enjoy this rare event without causing unnecessary harm:

Don’t look directly at the sun, even with sunglasses on – they don’t offer enough protection
Don’t watch it directly through a telescope, binoculars, camera or camera-phone. Even if you are just lining up the projection, this still puts you at risk
Use a pinhole projection method. This involves putting a hole in a piece of cardboard, and holding the cardboard up – with your back to the sun – so that an image of the sun is projected onto another piece of paper or card. This works well using a cardboard box, and will allow you to see the progress of the eclipse without damaging your eyes
Use glasses with specially designed solar filters (bearing the appropriate CE mark) if you have to view the eclipse directly.

A feast for your eyes

Posted by optical on May 16, 2014  /   Posted in Blog

The role nutrition plays in maintaining good eye health

A poor diet can put your sight at risk. Yet, awareness of the link between diet and good eye health is low – a recent survey found 60% of people living in the UK had no idea that what they eat can affect the health of their eyes. 1

Vitamins, minerals and carotenoids found in many fruits, vegetables and other wholesome foods can help protect your sight and keep your eyes healthy.

Here are just some of the foods that are rich in eye-friendly nutrients…

Cold water fish like cod, sardines and tuna are excellent sources of DHA, and Omega-3 fatty acids. These provide structural support to cell membranes and may be beneficial for dry eyes, and the maintenance of general eye health.

Research has shown that eating just one portion of fish a week may reduce your risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD) – the UK’s leading cause of blindness – by up to 40%. 2

Fresh fish


Blueberries and grapes contain anthocyanins, which may help improve night vision.



Green leafy vegetables spinach or kale, for examples, are rich in carotenoids, especially lutein and zeaxanthin. Lutein and zeaxanthin may help prevent age-related eye diseases such as macular degeneration and cataracts. These carotenoids may also reduce discomfort from glare and enhance visual contrast. 3



Citrus Fruits are a good source of Vitamin C. Studies have shown that Vitamin C  may help to prevent age-related vision problems such as macular degeneration and cataracts.

Citrus Fruits


Whole grains and avocados are rich in zinc and Vitamin B. Deficiency in complex B vitamins may increase your risk of cataracts and retinopathy.

Whole grainsAvocado


Papaya is a good source of beta carotene which can help to prevent “free radical” damage inside the eye.

papaya fruits


Eggs are rich in cysteine, sulphur, lecithin, amino acids and lutein. Sulphur may also help protect the lens of the eye from cataracts.



Garlic, onions, shallots and capers are rich in sulphur, which is necessary for the production of glutathione, an important antioxidant required to help maintain healthy sight.


green capers


Soy contains essential fatty acids, phytoestrogens, Vitamin E and natural anti-inflammatory agents. Vitamin E is important for the maintenance of good eye health.

Close up of soy beans


Unfortunately today’s busy lifestyles mean many people miss out on essential nutrients provided by a healthy diet, so taking supplements can be really beneficial. Always consult your Optometrist or GP before taking supplements.

Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) for some key eye-friendly nutrients 4

Vitamin A - 0.7mg a day for men and 0.6mg for women

Vitamin B6 - 1.4mg for men and 1.2mg for women

Vitamin C - 40mg a day for all adults

Vitamin E - 4mg a day for men , 3 mg a day for women

Zinc - 5.5 – 9.5mg for men and 4 – 7mg for women


1. Eyecare Trust “Healthy Eyes Report”

2. Dietary Fatty Acids and the 5-Year Incidence of Age-related Maculopathy, Brian Chua et al.

3. Journal of Food Science

4. NHS Choices. RDI for healthy adults.

For more information about nutrition and the eye and general eye care advice please visit









The A,B, See of Good Eye Health

Posted by optical on April 26, 2014  /   Posted in Blog

This handy guide provides a brief introduction to some common eye conditions as well as top tips for maintaining and improving your eye health.

Ageing Eyes – Our vision steadily declines and our risk of developing a sight threatening eye condition increases as we age.

Blepharitis – occurs when the glands around your eyelashes become blocked or infected.

Mild blepharitis affects up to one in three people across the UK. Acute blepharitis can be extremely painful. Sufferers should seek advice from their optometrist or pharmacy.

Cataract – 26% of all cases of sight loss in people aged 75 and over is due to untreated cataracts, despite that fact that vision can be restored with a routine surgical procedure.

Domiciliary eyecare – anyone who is unable to visit a high street or optician unaccompanied is entitled to a free NHS sight test in their own home.

Eyewear – ensure your prescription is up-to-date. Almost a third of all visual impairment in people aged 75+ is due to wearing the wrong glasses!

Contact lens wearers should follow their optometrist’s advice on wearing and caring for their lenses to prevent discomfort or infection.

Floaters – are little dots and tadpole-like shapes which appear in your vision. These are caused by age and general wear and tear. Occasionally this can be an early warning of a detached retina, so seek immediate advice if you notice a sudden increase in floaters.

Glaucoma – is a condition that affects the optic nerve and disturbs your peripheral vision. If left untreated it can lead to total sight loss.

Hay fever – ask your optometrist or local pharmacy about treatments for eye irritation caused by hay fever or other allergies.

Injuries – if you work with hazardous or airborne materials wear safety glasses or protective goggles to protect your eyes from injury.

Junior eyecare – your eyes continue to develop until about the age of 8 so regular sight tests in the early years are vital.

Keraconjunctivitis Sicca (or dry eye syndrome) – is the most common cause of eye irritation in people aged 65+. Consult your optometrist for advice on treating dry eye.

Low vision – everyone living with low vision is entitled to a Low Vision Aid provided by the NHS.

Macular degeneration – impairs your central field of vision and is Britain’s leading cause of blindness affecting over 600,000 people across the UK.

NHS entitlements – more than 30 million people in the UK are entitled to a free eye examination paid for by the NHS. Visit for more information.

Obesity – a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30+ doubles your risk of suffering age-related macular degeneration and significantly increases your chances of developing cataracts.

Presbyopia – is a natural part of the ageing process. When you hit your mid 40′s you will find it more and more difficult to focus on close objects.

Quit smoking – Smoking is directly linked to blindness. Current smokers are 4 times more likely to develop macular degeneration compared to past smokers or non-smokers. Smoking is also associated with other eye diseases such as cataracts.

Retinopathy – Diabetic retinopathy is the most common cause of blindness in working age people in England, Wales and Scotland. Despite effective treatment, sight loss due to DR is still  increasing.

Diabetics should ensure they have regular eye checks.

Sight tests – everyone should have their eyes checked every two years, unless advised otherwise by their optometrist.

Early diagnosis of eye conditions is key to successful treatment.

Tears – excessive tears are a common problem, particularly in babies and older people. A blocked tear duct is the most common cause, but there are a number of other causes. Consult your optometrist for advice.

UV protection – cumulative UV exposure can increase your risk of developing cataracts or macular degeneration.

Look out for the CE or BS EN 1836:2005 marks when choosing sunglasses to ensure they provide adequate UV protection.

VDU -(or screen) users should follow the 20 – 20 – 20 rule.

To combat visual fatigue brought on by prolonged screen use focus on something 20 meters away, for 20 seconds, every 20 minutes.

Water – dehydration can lead to dry, sore and irritated eyes. So ensure you drink plenty of water throughout the day for optimum eye health.

eXercise – aerobic exercise reduces intraocular “eye” pressure which can help control conditions such as glaucoma and other ocular hypertension.

Brisk walks, cycling and swimming are all excellent ways to reduce intraocular pressure and maintain healthy eyes.

DIY – every year around 30,000 people are admitted to hospital with a serious eye injury sustained whilst carrying out home improvement projects and hundreds of thousands more suffer superficial eye injuries.

Make sure you protect your eyes by wearing safety goggles.

Zinc – is a key nutrient required for good eye health.

Studies have shown that nutrients in omega-3 fatty acids, zinc and vitamins C and E may help to prevent age-related vision problems such as macular degeneration and cataracts. Foods containing eye-friendly nutrients include green leafy vegetables, oily fish and citrus fruits.

Taking nutritional eye health supplements may be beneficial. Consult your optometrist, GP or pharmacist for advice.

For more advice and information about eye health visit – and follow on twitter@myvisionmatters

Top tips for good eye health

Posted by optical on March 14, 2014  /   Posted in Blog

Follow these simple lifestyle tips to help keep your eyes and vision healthy.

Regular check ups – get your eyes tested every two years even if you think your vision is fine. Some eye conditions, for example open angle glaucoma, may not show any noticable symptoms so regular check-ups are vital. Many people think that a sight test is just about checking whether your vision needs correcting with glasses or contact lenses. But there are other important reasons to have a regular sight test. A sight test is a vital check on the health of the eyes and includes the detection of eye conditions. Many of these, if found early, can be treated successfully, avoiding potential sight loss. A sight test can also detect other health conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes.

patient at oculist

Quit the habit – if you smoke, you have another good reason to kick the habit. Smoking is directly linked to blindness. Current smokers are four times more likely to develop macular degeneration (the UK’s leading cause of blindness) compared to past smokers or non-smokers.


It’s all relative – talk to your relatives about your family eye health history as some eye conditions have genetic links such as glaucoma or squint. It’s important that you share this information with your optometrist or eye health professional.

Family eye health

Be cool in the sun – protect your eyes when it is sunny or when you’re in high glare areas such as near snow or water. Cumulative UV exposure can increase your risk of developing cataracts or macular degeneration. When choosing sunglasses make sure that they are safe as well as stylish! Look out for the CE or BS EN 1836:2005 marks – this ensures that they provide a safe level of protection from the sun’s damaging UVA and UVB rays.

Young girl reading in the sun

Contact care – If you wear contact lenses make sure you look after them properly. Thoroughly wash and dry your hands before touching your contact lenses or your eyes and only ever clean your contacts using the contact lens solution recommended by your practitioner. Never shower, sleep or swim with your contacts lenses in because this can put you at risk of developing a serious eye infection which could lead to blindness. Also, don’t wear  them for longer periods than those recommended by your optician.

woman have contact lens on her finger

Protect your eyes – if you work with hazardous or airborne materials at work or home wear safety glasses or protective goggles to protect your eyes from injury.

College Chemistry Course

Keep fit and healthy – regular exercise is essential to stay fit and healthy but it is also important that when playing sports such as squash that you wear protective eye wear such as helmets or sports goggles to protect your eyes from a flying ball.

Cyclist on bike closeup

Eat well – protecting your eyes starts with the food you eat. Studies have shown that nutrients in omega-3 fatty acids, zinc and vitamins C and E may help to prevent age-related vision problems such as macular degeneration and cataracts. Foods containing eye-friendly nutrients include green leafy vegetables, oily fish such as salmon and citrus fruits. You should also ensure that your alcohol intake is within the Department of Health’s recommended limits.

Dark green leafy vegetables in colanderSalmonCitrus Fruits

Be screen smart – although working at a computer will not harm the health of your eyes, sitting staring at a screen for long periods can cause “screen fatigue” – sore, itchy or tired eyes; headaches; impaired colour perception and temporary blurring of your vision. So, it is important to take regular breaks to keep your eyes feeling fresh and bright.

Businessman working on computer

For more advice about caring for your eyes visit –

Why do we visit the dentist but forget about our eyes?

Posted by optical on August 24, 2013  /   Posted in Blog

Why are eye examinations important?

In this country most children and adults visit the dentist for regular check- ups; however this practice does not extend to eye examinations. This is surprising as losing sight is one of the senses many people fear the most. Whatever the reasons for this anomalous behaviour, the result is that many children do not have any assessment of their vision after the rudimentary preschool check by the health visitor. This can be detrimental to both the child’s education and general development. It also means that many adults do not have a regular eye examination until early to middle 40s. An eye examination is not merely a vehicle for retailing glasses which appears to be a common misconception but a vital means of detecting early eye diseases as well as other diseases affecting the rest of the body.

As with dentistry, the NHS funds free eye examinations and partially funds the costs of glasses for children but unlike dentistry there is universal provision for eye examinations in adults also.

This allows for an NHS eye examination every two years for adults aged 19 – 59 and every year for adults aged 60 and above. In addition adults 40 or over with a family history of glaucoma and all diabetic adults are eligible for an eye examination every year.

Most eye examinations are carried out by high street optometrists (ophthalmic opticians), any further hospital treatment required is carried out under the supervision of an ophthalmologist (a medical doctor specialising in eye diseases). Some ophthalmologists work in high street practices providing both routine eye examinations and specialist opinion. This is commonplace in mainland Europe but still a rarity in the UK; however Optical Solutions in Edinburgh is one such practice.

Dr Jonathan Whittle, and what he can do for you

Posted by optical on August 21, 2013  /   Posted in Blog

Early detection of eye disease and other health problems, such as diabetes, can be identified through routine eye examinations, leading to successful treatment of many illnesses including both potentially life and sight threatening diseases.

There are under 100 medically qualified eye doctors, or ophthalmologists as we like to call them, practising in Scotland.

Of these, only one, combines extensive hospital experience with a retail service dispensing high quality eyewear.

Our mantra is ‘foresight not hindsight’. In short, there are no upsides to putting off an eye test, yet the downsides of ignoring uncorrected refractive errors are numerous.

By providing fast and cost-effective access to medical expertise, Optical Solutions helps to ensure that many more patients can benefit from early diagnosis of eye diseases. This is especially important in the case of macular degeneration where the newer forms of treatment are potentially sight saving.
In an age where supermarkets are offering walk-in eye tests and examinations, we believe that there really is no substitute for the best. Being prescribed the wrong glasses or contact lenses by a substandard practitioner can set you back years. Dr Whittle’s 22 years ophthalmological expertise means that he is able to conduct a thorough examination to detect any potentially serious eye conditions, before prescribing and dispensing the most suitable glasses or contact lenses.
With a recent Which? report casting serious aspersions on the calibre of optical professionalism on the high street, Optical Solutions is proud to have catered for hundreds of patients from its discreet premises in Edinburgh’s Ravelston area.
Dr Whittle is an Associate Specialist at the Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion. He’s also a supervising ophthalmologist in the Lothian Optometry Teach and Treat Clinic (LOTTC) training budding optometrists in managing and treating common and chronic eye disorders. You get the picture.

Just as you rely on your GP to diagnose and select your prescription, we passionately believe that a medically qualified eye doctor is best placed to prescribe your eyewear.

With Optical Solutions, what you see is most definitely what you get.

For a consultation at our discreet Ravelston premises please call 0131 337 9645 or go to the appointments page.

Dr Jonathan Whittle studied medicine at Edinburgh University, graduating B.Sc. (Honours) in 1983 and M.B., Ch.B. in 1985.
After pre and post-registration posts he began specialist training in 1987, working in Fife, the Sussex Eye Hospital, Brighton and the Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion, Edinburgh.
He gained the Diploma in Ophthalmology from the Royal College of Surgeons of England (D.O., R.C.S.) in 1990, and fellowships of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh (F.R.C.S.Ed.) and the Royal College of Ophthalmologists (F.R.C.Oph.) in 1991.
Dr Whittle has been a permanent member of staff at the Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion since 1995 where he is Associate Specialist and the director of the electrodiagnostic service and also a supervising ophthalmologist in the Lothian Optometry Teach and Treat Clinic.
Dr Whittle has been on the Ophthalmic List of Ophthalmic Medical Practitioners since 1994 and has been a member of the Lothian Local Ophthalmic Committee since 2010.
He is a member of the International Society for the Clinical Electrophysiology of Vision (I.S.C.E.V.). and the British Society for the Clinical Electrophysiology of Vision (Bri. S.C.E.V.)

The Impact of Vision Loss

Posted by admin on November 30, 2012  /   Posted in Blog

We are constantly told of the problems of an ageing population and in particular the impacts on health. If current trends of eye disease were to continue, in the years to come a very large proportion of the population could be suffering loss of vision due to eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataracts, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy. This will have a devastating fiscal impact on society in addition to the large scale suffering of individuals including loss of independence in otherwise healthy elderly people. Improvements in surgery and pharmaceuticals along with technological advances in the diagnosis of eye disorders certainly have a key role to play but with the advancing tide of numbers of people likely to be affected there has also to be a preventative strategy.

Also prevention is cheaper.

According to the online journal Medscape, “a recent survey found that baby boomers (born between 1945 and 1964) fear vision loss almost as much as they fear heart disease or cancer. Still, almost half do not receive an annual eye examination, and few are knowledgeable about how dietary factors influence eye health. Furthermore, supplement use to promote eye health is low, even in patients already diagnosed with age-related eye disease. Eye care providers, primary care providers and specialists in diabetes can point to a burgeoning body of research to convince their patients to increase their dietary intake of key nutrients.”

There is already an impressive but as yet far from complete body of knowledge regarding the effects of nutrition on eye diseases. The ball started rolling with the landmark AREDS (Age Related Eye Disease Study) sponsored by the National Eye Institute in the USA which concluded that AMD was responsive to nutrition. This was a controlled randomised trial that showed a 25% reduction in risk for progression to advanced AMD in high-risk patients who took a combination of antioxidant vitamins (vitamins C and E), beta-carotene, zinc and copper.

A number of laboratory studies, epidemiological studies as well as smaller clinical studies also raised the possible effects of other groups of compounds in the diet such as carotenoids (including the xanthophylls Lutein and Zeaxanthin) and omega-3 fatty acids. There have been some conflicting results with one study (the CARMA study not showing any protective effect of carotenoids with regard to AMD.)

This is not to say they are of no use. In fact this illustrates many of the problems in planning and caution required in interpreting data from epidemiological and basic laboratory studies.

Anatomical studies show that different carotenoids are concentrated in different parts of the retina; Lutein is found more in the peripheral retina and Zeaxanthin in the central retina or Macula Lutea so a study that groups differently acting carotenoids together as one agent is likely to show a smaller effect when looking at a disease affecting the macula.

AREDS2 is now under way to establish the benefits of xanthophylls and omega-3 fatty acids, and initial results are expected in 2013.

Even though the results of AREDS2 are not yet known, manufacturers of oral supplements are jumping the gun and including xanthophylls and omega-3 fatty acids.

I will briefly summarise some of the nutrients that are currently thought to play a role and also their sources in food. There will be more included in later blogs.


Lutein and Zeaxanthin are xanthophyll carotenoids found in green leafy vegetables that have antioxidant and light-screening mechanisms. They cannot be synthesised in the human body so they must be derived from food. In the plant they probably protect the tissue from the free radicals produced as a by-product of photosynthesis where there is a high concentration of oxygen in the presence of light. In the eye, where the blood flow relative to the weight of tissue is the highest in the body there is also a high oxygen environment in the presence of light giving rise to free radicals. It is therefore not surprising that these xanthophylls are therefore concentrated in the retina.
As mentioned above Lutein is found in green leafy vegetables and also eggs, and major dietary sources of Zeaxanthin are corn, spinach, collard greens, lettuce and tangerines.


Zinc is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory mineral, and it was included in the AREDS study. It probably acts as a cofactor in enzyme systems involved in inactivation of free radicals. Note that high dietary or supplemental levels of zinc can interfere with copper absorption and metabolism so supplements containing zinc must also have copper.

Good dietary sources of zinc include oysters, crab, toasted wheat germ, low-fat roast beef, mutton, pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate (but check the label for the fats added to ensure no hydrogenated fats AKA trans-fats are added) and peanuts.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

This is an exciting area of research. It is known that these compounds are highly concentrated in the retina, especially docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Prospective observational studies looking at the effect of DHA in the diet suggest a protective role in relation to AMD and there is also a beneficial effect in dry eye conditions.

Dietary sources are fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel & sardines) or through omega-3 fatty acid supplements in the form of oil or capsules. For those intolerant of fish products there are high quality supplements derived by fermentation such as Nuique.

Vitamin E

There is less evidence that this slows or prevents AMD in studies looking at Vitamin E supplementation but there is an effect on slowing down advanced AMD when used in combination with other nutrients i.e. beta-carotene, vitamin C and zinc.
Dietary sources of vitamin E include fortified cereals, wheat germ, sunflower seeds and vegetable oils.

In the next blog I’ll outline the roles of Vitamin C, the flavonoids and Vitamin A including beta-carotene.

^ Back to Top