Eye check

In support of Eyecare Awareness month we asked advice from local optometrist Werner Fourie.


Q: I have heard that it is more harmful for your vision if you wear a pair of cheap sunglasses than not wearing sunglasses at all. Is this statement true?
A: Let’s start by asking why we should be wearing proper sunglasses. We spend most of our summer days in the outdoors. This leaves us exposed to those bad UV rays for hours on end. UV exposure is one of the main causes of ocular problems. Taking this into consideration we can see why it is important to wear sunglasses, but we may ask what about these cheap sunglasses being sold everywhere? Here is the answer. They are bad. Did you know that wearing cheap sunglasses may be more harmful to your eye than not wearing any sunglasses at all? Naturally when our eyes are exposed to sunlight, the pupil constricts to minimise the amount of light entering the eyes, thus also less exposure to harmful UV rays. At night time the opposite happens, the pupils dilate (enlarge) to maximise the amount of light into the eyes and help us see better in low light conditions. When we wear sunglasses in daytime, the light conditions behind the sunglasses are darker due to the dark tint of the lenses, so the pupils tend to dilate (enlarge). The problem now is that the natural protection mechanism of the constricting pupil does not work well and more light, and importantly more UV rays, enter the eyes. That is why wearing cheap sunglasses without UV protection is worse than not wearing any sunglasses at all. Proper sunglasses should have UV protection against UVA, UVB, UVC and dangerous blue light. Please take note we are not suggesting you don’t wear sunglasses, sunglasses are still one of the most effective ways of preventing cataracts, macular degeneration and other ocular conditions. Just make sure next time you buy sunglasses that they have adequate UV protection.

Q: I suffer from headaches. Can headaches occur because of an eye problem?
A: Eye-related headaches are quite common, but the most common headache derives from the most common triggers such as excessive reading, watching TV for a long period of time, working at the computer with little or no rest for several hours or cluster headaches.

On occasion, headaches occur because of an eye problem. Ocular causes of headache may include the following: uncorrected farsightedness, astigmatism, eye muscles that are not working together properly and angle-closure glaucoma. Eye-related headaches are typically helped by resting your eyes and taking a mild pain reliever. Some eye conditions and diseases cause an eye ache, which is similar to the feeling you have upon leaving a dark movie theatre and stepping into the bright sunlight. An eye ache occurring in only one eye, whether a headache accompanies it or not, should be brought to the attention of your optometrist. People who already have glasses can also experience headaches when their script has changed and the old specs don’t work well anymore. They may need a new pair of glasses with an updated script.

Q: My eyes are constantly itching. What can I do?
A: Almost all eye-itching is caused by some sort of allergy. Very often, mild itching can be helped with over-the-counter lubricating eye drops. Avoid the ones that take away redness (decongestants), as they can be addictive. More severe itching may need extra help, such as oral antihistamines or prescription eye drops. If your eyelids are red and inflamed, you could have blepharitis. Make sure you visit your eye doctor to determine the cause and appropriate treatment. Quick Tip: Try to avoid rubbing your eyes! Rubbing releases chemicals called histamines that actually make the itching worse.