At school they use to say there were ‘no stupid questions’ and it’s a tenant which I have tried to stick to into my adult life. It has created some mixed results – asking a friend how white a pigeon had to be ‘before it was a dove’ didn’t exactly present me in the best light – but the idea that we should never be afraid to show our ignorance by asking a question is generally one to be admired.
However, after being confidently told one too many well-meaning ‘facts’ by friends, I have come to the conclusion that while none of my questions were ‘stupid’, some of them could be better directed. Was I really asking the right person to get the answers I needed?
Consulting the nearest vaguely related professional is something I am particularly prone to. This includes directing questions on electrical wiring to my plumber and quizzing my GP friends about recent dental work. I even went as far to ask one of the AOP’s in-house optometrists about my cat’s squint.
In every case, I got a hesitant opinion, but not the advice I craved. They all told me to speak to an expert because, as experts themselves, they know there’s no substitute.
I’ll admit, sometimes finding the person best qualified to answer your question can be hard and we too often settle for the next best thing, be that an opinionated friend or an increasingly alarming internet search. Luckily with eye health, it’s easy to access an expert on your High Street.
Most of us will know that a visit to the optometrist is essential to getting the right prescription, but we forget that optometrists can help with a wide range of eye problems.
In some cases, the practice will also provide a Minor Eye Condition Service (MECS). This means their staff can deal with eye health problems such as dry eye, red eye and hay fever, or even mild trauma – like a scratched cornea, something lodged in your eye or general pain and discomfort - all things you might assume would require a GP appointment or a trip to your local A&E department. Optometrists can make a quick assessment to see if you need further treatment or to be referred elsewhere.
For me, it’s reassuring to know that I have an eye health expert less than 20 minutes from my house, and one which, with regular sight tests, I’ll see at least every two years. Someone who can put my mind at rest, provide treatment or tell me if I need further assessment. I can only hope that knowing this will help direct my queries, at least about my own eye health, slightly better.
Emily Campbell is the Interim PR and Media Manager at the Association of Optometrists