Me and my glasses

Penny Lancaster

Photographer Penny Lancaster speaks about her vision and why she is supporting the State of the Nation Report: Eye health 2016

Penny Lancaster

How many pairs of spectacles and sunglasses do you own?

Four – I purchased my most recent pair of spectacles just last week.

How long have you worn spectacles for and what prompted you to go for your first eye test?

Spectacles are quite new to me – I’d always had quite good vision before.

As a photographer, I’m used to squinting with one eye closed, predominantly using my right eye. However, around the age of 38 I began to find that when I got very tired, towards the end of the day, or when the light wasn’t so good, I struggled to focus and read. It didn’t matter if the paper was close or far away, my eyes had decided that they weren’t going to work properly. I knew it was time to go back to the opticians and get my sight tested.

"When I went for an eye examination last weekend, I knew that it wasn't going to be an invasive process, but a simple set of harmless tests. People need to be educated about this"

I must admit that before that point, because I thought that I didn’t have a problem with my vision, I had my sight tested very infrequently – I didn’t go to the optician as often as I should have done.

After having my sight tested, I was told I had a slight refraction in one eye and given a prescription. I then picked some spectacles to wear when reading and if I was working on the computer a lot.

At first I would keep them on my desk. Now I keep them in my handbag because over the last six years my sight has deteriorated.

Before I was prescribed spectacles, I had little understanding about how important a regular sight test is. However, I now understand that there are tonnes of people living with undetected eye conditions who don’t visit the opticians because they have no symptoms.

Do you have a favourite pair?

Yes, it has to be my most recent pair. Flying in from New York last week, on returning home I had a letter reminding me that I was due an eye examination. I went for a sight test at my local Specsavers at the weekend and, on getting a new prescription, picked up a pair of Max and Co frames. They are black at the front and have different colour arms. They are a cute shape and I like the contrast in the colour between the front and sides.

Who would you pick as your eyewear style icon and why?

It would have to be my husband Rod [Stewart]. Not many people know he wears glasses as he doesn’t wear them on stage, but he needs glasses and probably has over 100 pairs in hidden places as he’s always losing them.

He will go for an eye exam every year or two and buy six new pairs of glasses. However, he then loses them all and very naughtily goes and picks up a cheap magnifying pair. Having read in the Specsavers and the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) State of the Nation Report about the large number of people living with sight loss as a result of wearing the wrong glasses, I will go home and ensure this stops.

Do you ever wear contact lenses?

I haven’t tried contact lenses and, if I’m honest, I am a little hesitant to. I really hate anything touching my eyes – I don’t even wear false eyelashes because of this.

Maybe if I was a sports enthusiast, for example, I would overcome this and convert to contact lenses, but, simply, I think glasses are cool.

Since wearing spectacles, how has your outlook on eye care changed?

It’s become very clear to me that not enough people are educated on the importance of regular sight tests and therefore they don’t go to get their eyes tested. This needs to change.

When I went for an eye examination last weekend, I knew that it wasn’t going to be an invasive process, but a simple set of harmless tests. People need to be educated about this. A sight test can help detect and diagnose a range of health anomalies, including diabetes. It’s not just an eye health exam, but an overall health exam and that is why

I’ve joined with the RNIB and Specsavers to help get this important message out there.

Penny Lancaster has been a vice president of the RNIB since 2008. She teamed up with the RNIB and Specsavers to launch the 'State of the Nation Report: Eye Health 2016' at the House of Lords.