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 11 January, 2007

Good vision key to making roads safer

Eyecare practitioners are urging people to have their vision checked in a bid to make the nation's roads safer.

While this year's national holiday road toll was lower than last year Dr Richard Smith, Sydney ophthalmologist and spokesperson for Sight for Life, said more needs to be done to highlight the problems associated with vision impairment and driving fatalities and encourage people to have their vision tested.

"It is all about eliminating the factors that lead to road accidents. We know poor vision is a factor and by addressing that we can impact the road toll," he said.

Dr Smith said there are a number of vision factors that are vital for safe driving.

"Distance acuity - the ability to focus and see clearly at far distance - is probably the most important vision requirement for driving. If distance acuity is poor you may not even see a stop sign until you are almost upon it and you may not have the necessary time in which to react. Poor distance acuity becomes more and more dangerous as speed increases and time to react diminishes.

"Depth perception is necessary in order to accurately judge distances between moving objects. Both eyes need to function properly together for reliable depth perception. Like poor distance acuity, depth perception deficiencies worsen as speed increases.

"Field of vision is also very important when driving as it is desirable to view a wide area without much movement of eyes or head. Normally the field of vision is about 180 degrees enabling a driver to see cross road traffic and pedestrians at the roadside without looking away from the road ahead. It is reduced with increasing speed and is only 40 degrees at speeds of 100 kilometres an hour."

Dr Smith said muscle balance, night vision and colour vision are other factors that play an important part in safe driving.

"If any of these abilities is impaired it can have a detrimental effect on driving performance."

Dr Smith said vision testing and correction are very important preventative measures that can be undertaken to remove yet another factor in road accidents.

"It is important that any person driving a vehicle has the best possible vision," said Dr Smith.

Eyecare practitioners are encouraging people to do the simple one minute quiz at www.sightforlife.net and to consult an eyecare practitioner for a formal eye test.

"Your eyecare practitioner is the best person to provide professional advice about the most appropriate tests and the sight correction options available," said Dr Smith.

Issued by Palin Communications on behalf of Dr Richard Smith and Sight for Life.

About Sight For Life

Sight for Life is an initiative of the not-for- profit group Optical Distributors and Manufacturers Association whose aim is to promote good eye health to the public.

For further information contact Peter Bayliss (0421 051 492) or Karina Candia (0402 307 056) on 02 9420 1387.

 November 2006

New technology detecting eye damage acts as trigger for improved protection.

A team of Australian eye experts is now applying a new technique that could play a vital role in identifying children who are at a greater risk of having their eyes damaged by the sun.

Professor Minas Coroneo, Head of Ophthalmology at the University of NSW and Prince of Wales Hospital, said the technique, known as ultraviolet fluorescence photography (UVFP), could detect sun damage much earlier than is now possible and that will help reinforce the important public health message to reduce sun exposure and adopt preventative measures.

"We now have access to images that will prompt people to take the damage caused by sun exposure to the eye seriously."

"Parents will be able to clearly see a visual depiction of the damage that has already occurred to their child's eyes from sun exposure, and hence, with increased awareness and education, will be more willing to take the steps required to prevent further damage from occurring," he said.

Professor Coroneo said simple methods are available to reduce ocular sun exposure such as wearing wraparound sunglasses and hats and avoiding the mid-day sun.

"Some parents think of sunglasses for kids as a bit of an inconvenience - one more thing to remember - but hopefully with this new technique we can actually show them the evidence of early damage that will motivate them to be more diligent on insisting on eye protection.

"As exposure to UV radiation during childhood increases the risk of later pterygium development, we emphasise that effective preventive strategies at this time of life are crucial."

The UVFP technique to capture damage to the eye is based on that used in the detection of dermatological diseases resulting from UV exposure.

"The results of our study1 to date are encouraging. Of significance, the UV photography detected all of the evidence of damage seen on control photography, and additionally, detected areas of abnormality in eyes that appeared normal using control methods," Professor Coroneo said.

"We also found an increasing prevalence of fluorescent regions with chronological age and this is consistent with the thinking that these changes are attributable to chronic ocular sun exposure."

"In the long term, we envisage this study will lead to universal screening of children for precursors of UV damage to the eyes, performed using a portable device by a school teacher or nurse."

Professor Coroneo said as well as identifying ocular sun damage the technique could also act as an indicator of UV changes in result of body.

"It is often years between exposure and when the damage is noticed on the skin. However, the eye is the only organ that is based on a lens system and this focusing effect of the eye speeds up the process. So we are likely to see the damaging effects of UV exposure on the eye long before it is evident in other parts of the body."

"Pterygia have been found to develop about a decade before skin conditions and, thus, may be an early indicator of increased ultraviolet damage. Changes detected on UV fluorescence photography may be the earliest indicator of UV changes in the body," he said.

Sight For Life spokesperson Richard Grills said sunglasses are required by law to meet the Consumer Product Safety Standard, unless they are clearly marked and marketed as toy sunglasses (in which case they are required to meet the toy standard, which also includes a UV requirement). Sunglasses that comply with the CPSS are required to carry a label or swing tag detailing the manufacturer or supplier, the category of the lens (0-4, 4 being the darkest) and a description of the sunglare and UV protection in the lenses.

For good sunglare protection and sufficient UV protection for all Australian conditions, choose a category 2 or 3 lens in a sunglass that fits closely to the face with a wraparound design that protects the eyes from the side as well as the front.

Your eye practitioner is the best person to discuss the specific sun protection needs for your child.

Issued by Palin Communications on behalf of Professor Coroneo and Sight for Life.

About Sight For Life

Sight for Life is an initiative of the not-for- profit group Optical Distributors and Manufacturers Association whose aim is to promote good eye health to the public.

For further information contact Peter Bayliss on 02 9420 1387 or 0421 051 492.


1. American Journal of Ophthalmology 2006; 141: 294-298


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