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Seeing in sunshine

Why prescription sunglasses are a handbag essential

22 Jun 2018 by Serena Box

We’ve all been there. You’re walking down the street, you think you recognise someone, wave emphatically, only to realise mid-flow, and rather embarrassingly, that it’s not the person you first thought! If you are short sighted like me, or myopic as it’s also known, then these kinds of social faux pas are perhaps more familiar to you than to most! On more than one occasion I’ve read a sign incorrectly, mistakenly identified a car or person and worse… blanked colleagues or friends because of my poor eyesight. This was especially true as a teenager, when permanently donning prescription eyewear seemed far less appealing to my former, more fashion-conscious self. Of course, glasses are far more on trend than they’ve ever been and as I’ve got older, I’ve found a certain appreciation for different styles and frames. I now wear my glasses almost every day, all day – fully embracing the ‘geek chic’ and at times, with an uncanny, but wholly unintentional, resemblance to Scooby Doo’s Velma Dinkley. The crucial benefit, naturally, is the fact that I can actually see – see my computer screen, TV, people – the outside world in all its glory. With only two notable stumbling blocks; sport and sunshine. 

Regretfully, I’ve acclimatised to a life where racket sports are near impossible and to be avoided – try focusing on a tennis ball, shuttlecock or ping pong ball at -2.25 dioptres and you’ll soon understand why a first name is all I have in common with Serena Williams. I’ve instead opted for running, hi-energy aerobics, and/or yoga to get an exercise fix that relies a lot less on 20/20 vision. I do realise, of course, that there are options available to me – working for an organisation in optics certainly opens your eyes to a whole host of vision correction options. 

Contact lenses are the obvious choice but I admit, there is something about putting a layer of plastic in your eye that seems quite unnatural to me - not to mention time-consuming - on an already hurried morning routine. So, it’s glasses all the way for me. And my love for oversized frames is not solely confined to prescription eyewear either – it extends to sunglasses too, with a collection that rivals my rather indulgent addiction to shoes. Although, decking yourself out in the latest sunnies is not always practical for a myopic like me. Sightseeing for example, has become increasingly troublesome – with most holidays spent continuously alternating between my prescription specs and trustee classics like the Ray Ban Wayfarer. On my latest trip, while enjoying the picturesque delights of the River Danube in Budapest, I decided enough was enough – I was going to invest in a much-needed pair of prescription shades. 

Ironically, on a dark January afternoon I visited my local optical practice to suss out the range of sunglasses alongside having my biennial sight test. I was pleased to be met with a great selection of frames and a dispensing optician who offered invaluable advice on frame fit and shape, lens colour, coatings as well as recommendations on tint strength if I was planning to drive in them. Our 60 second advice: Sunglasses provides similar advice. 

The result…an addition of retro elegance to the wardrobe but more importantly, fully protected peepers. More than a fashion item, sunglasses provide that crucial shield from ultraviolet (UV) rays and help reduce the likelihood of developing eye conditions that are linked to the sun, like cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. With that in mind, my prescription sunglasses have become a permanent fixture in my handbag and an item I now can’t live without. Who knows, this summer’s Wimbledon may spark a return to the tennis court and with it, a contact lens fitting.   

Serena Box Serena Box is the PR and Media Manager at the Association of Optometrists.