When I was young, I was a regular at our local opticians.  My mother is very short sighted so she made sure I never missed my annual check up.  Growing up, much to my disappointment and my mother’s delight, my eyesight was perfect.

Fast forward several years: I was driving home after dropping my parents off at the airport.  It was just after 7am and I was crossing the Kingston Bridge in Glasgow.  Suddenly, I realised I couldn’t see the speed limit sign clearly.  I’m a bit of a hypochondriac so I immediately jumped to the conclusion that I was going blind (I was 17 at the time and all about the drama).  So I drove straight to my optician and waited in the car until they opened, the whole time wondering what was wrong.

My optometrist explained that I’d been very slightly short sighted for several years.  My vision was still good so he’d not issued a prescription.  We had a chat and, at the end, I picked my very first pair of glasses.

I could still see.  I mean, I thought I could.  I was still within driving standards but I’d been reassured that the prescription would sharpen everything up – I could wear them as much or as little as I wanted.  A week passed and I went to collect my specs.  They were a small prescription and when I popped them on in the practice, I really didn’t see much of a different but when I walked outside…

WOW.  I could see the leaves on the trees, the individual blades of grass, the telephone poles in the far distance.  It was like going from VHS quality to Bluray (showing my age a bit there).  I’d been wandering around, missing all this detail for years: I’d become accustomed to the blur.  Now, when I wore my specs, my brain realised that this is how I was supposed to see the world – in all its high definition glory – so when I took my glasses off, I was more aware of the blur.  I tried to wear the glasses just for driving but kept forgetting to take them off when I got out of the car.  I got used to that clarity and sharpness so I started wearing them all the time.

Now I’m hovering around the -2.50DS mark in both eyes (built in reading specs for when the time comes).  I’m okay when I wake up in the morning if I don’t have my lenses in.  I can get through my morning routine, have breakfast, even use the computer but if I tried to do all that in the evening, after removing my lenses, I can’t.  So, when my patients say that they feel their specs are making their vision worse, I can completely sympathise.

I tell everyone the truth: glasses won’t make anyone’s eyes deteoriate but they will get your brain addicted to seeing better.

Sometimes you have to overcome someone’s preconceived notions about their vision, especially those pesky middle aged hypermetropes.

I tested a lovely man a while ago.  He was a mature student and, when he came into my test room, he told me he’d been unable to read the last exam paper he’d sat, a few days previously.  He had to move it around to get it to focus.  As a medical student, he’d spent hours revising for each exam and, come the final one, his eyes just weren’t working the way they should.  He’d never had specs before and said that, usually, his eyesight was excellent.

Unsurprisingly, I found he was slightly hypermetropic in both eyes (around +1.50DS).  Starting VAs were 6/5, ending at 6/4.  A small improvement in the distance but, when I handed him the near chart, he immediately commented on how quickly it came into focus.

I explained that he had always been a little long-sighted and that, usually, his eyes were able to compensate for this but, after spending weeks pouring over his medical text books, past exam papers and on-line journals, he’d pushed the system to its limit.  I recommended a pair of specs that could be worn full-time or just for reading.

He asked if he really needed specs.  I told him he still met driving standards so he didn’t need to wear them to drive but they would help with the long periods of studying.

“But I don’t really need them, do I?” he repeated.  He picked up the near chart, holding it further and further away until it was almost touching my nose.  “I can see the bottom one fine.”

“Where would you hold your books usually?” I said, as he moved the near chart from about 70cm to 30cm and back again.

He frowned. “I just don’t know if I need specs.”

I looked at him for a second.  We’d established a bit of rapport and, as a medical student, I thought he’d like a bit of candour.  I gestured to his trainers, “Well, technically, you don’t need shoes.”

He laughed and nodded.  It had finally clicked.