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Latest news from your Manchester & North West eycare specialists

Why do opticians blow air in your eyes?

Most adults have come to expect to have their eyes ‘puffed’ when they go to the opticians. The machine that blows or puffs in your eyes does so to measure the pressure in the eye. This is of interest, as excessive pressure in the eye is not healthy. It can damage the sensitive nerve fibres that send signals to the brain affecting the picture we see of the outside world.

A bit like blood pressure, there is a normal range for eye pressure. People with eye pressure higher than normal are more likely to get a condition called glaucoma (I must stress that you can also get glaucoma with normal pressure). Glaucoma is a range of conditions where nerve fibres in the eye are damaged affecting the signal the brain receives.

Unfortunately, it has got into the public psyche that the ‘puff test’ is the definitive test for having glaucoma which is not true. In reality, a combination of measures and factors are taken into account. Plus, in the early stages, glaucoma can be difficult to rule in or rule out. That is why repeat measurement of certain tests is required.

A substantial number of people don’t like air blowing in their eyes. If you really don’t like ‘the puff’, there are other ways to check the eye pressure. Depending on your optician, you may be able to have different measurements taken, say with a blue light, but most high street opticians only offer the puff test.

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How do opticians test children’s eyes?

Childrens Eyewear

A commonly asked question is ‘How can you test a child’s eyes?’

Parents often think young children can’t have their eyes tested as some chain opticians often say ‘not till at school’.

But this isn’t true. Children can be checked from a few months old. In fact, they are checked just after birth to ensure there are no obvious problems.

Depending on the age of the child, we can use the natural reflexes of the eyes to help check for normality. We will also use shapes instead of letters, as well as toys to attract attention. All the room lights may be switched off and a special torch shone in the eyes to check their focus and health.

I describe seeing children as ‘short attention span theatre’: children need to be engaged and entertained so their eye test should be fun and will not be like an adults. Your child should leave wanting to come back again.

We take our children regularly to the dentist from a young age. You can do exactly the same for their eyes. You just need to find a children friendly optician in your area.

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