South Devon people are being urged to recognise the signs of a common eye condition that can be dangerous when driving.
This Road Safety Awareness Week (19-25 November) experts at the Specsavers Torquay stores are warning that drivers who see blurry or wavy beams on lights could be among the 27% of people living with a common eye condition known as astigmatismi.
Simon Simmonds, director at the Specsavers Torquay stores, says that while driving at night can be difficult enough for those with 20:20 vision, for people with astigmatism it’s even more challenging. This comes as a recent review of multiple studies found that two-thirds (66%) of those with astigmatism experience night-time driving difficultiesi.
As the days become shorter, it is more important than ever that drivers in South Devon are aware of any changes to their sight and recognise the symptoms associated with astigmatism.
The condition means the cornea (the front layer of your eye) or lens (the part of the eye responsible for focus) is shaped more like the pointed end of a rugby ball rather than a spherical football. The result of this can cause blurred or unfocussed vision, making everyday tasks difficult or even dangerous.
Simon adds: ‘Astigmatism can present a range of symptoms, including headaches, regularly having to squint to see clearly, eye strain or tiredness when focusing on prolonged tasks. If you have astigmatism or think you might, it’s important to get an up-to-date eye test every two years and always wear your glasses or contacts when driving.’
In low-light conditions, blurry vision associated with astigmatism can become worse. This is because when the lighting dims, your pupil dilates to let in more light. The more light that is let in, the more light that is scattered. This scattered light causes unfocused vision, as well as halos around bright lights and even night blindness.
Bright headlights from oncoming and rear traffic can become particularly distorted, creating ‘lines’ of light around the headlight. Light reflections from cars and streetlamps can also cause drivers with astigmatism to squint, making it more difficult to concentrate on the road ahead.
Understanding the risks associated with driving with an eye condition, the DVLA has warned that failure to meet the minimum eye standards could result in being charged with a £1,000 fine and three penalty points, which is why it is so important to be aware if you have this condition.
In light of Road Safety Awareness Week, Specsavers has shared four top tips to drive safely with astigmatism.
1. Make sure you get your eyes tested at least once every two years so your prescription is up to date, and you can see as clearly when driving.
2. Anti-reflection treatments like UltraClear SuperClean can help reduce reflections which can be distracting when driving at night.
3. For varifocal wearers, the SuperDrive lens is tailored for driving, featuring a 180-degree distance vision area and a wide upper intermediate area for road and wing mirror use, with minimum head movement.
4. It can be beneficial to wear contact lenses to correct astigmatism while driving, as this eliminates extra light reflection. Mild astigmatism can be corrected by an ordinary gas-permeable lens, while others with higher amounts of astigmatism might benefit from special ‘toric’ soft lenses to fit your eye shape.
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