ARTICLE: WHY PEOPLE WEAR SPECTACLES

Fashionable frame

Come, come, my conservative friend, wipe the dew off your spectacles, and see that the world is moving” (Elizabeth Stanton)

There are varied reasons why we wear spectacles. Gone are the days where people only wore spectacles to help them see better. But things have changed; others wear it to look better. Basically, there are 3 reasons why people were spectacles.

• To correct a refractive error
• For fashion
• For protective purpose

“I’m blind without my glasses” (Adam Ant)

Some people have refractive errors which needs correction. There are three forms of refractive errors namely myopia, hyperopia and astigmatism. Light rays from distance are not able to focus on the retina and this causes a refractive error. These light rays either form in front of the retina (in the case of the myopia) or behind the retina (in hyperopia). In some people, their corneas are irregularly shaped and so light ray from distance is not well focused causing blurred vision.

Individuals in these categories need spectacles to correct these errors. It is especially crucial in children. If significant refractive errors are not corrected as soon as possible, the eyes may become amblyopic (lazy).

In most cases, there is not much improvement in vision with refraction regarding the amblyopic eye and that individual becomes a low vision patient.

“I have a second pair of glasses but it is difficult finding glasses without my pair of glasses” (Liverpool manager, Jurgen Klopp after his glasses got broken during a flamboyant celebration). 

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Klopp with his broken spectacles

Lastly, there is also a condition called presbyopia which is not necessarily a refractive error. As we grow, a lot of changes occur in our bodies, for example grey hair. In the same manner, our eyes grow as we age. The lens in our eye, which is responsible for controlling how we see at far and near also goes through some changes.

To see at far, the lens relaxes. But to see at near or to do near work such as reading books or threading a needle, the lens needs to bulge forward. From age 40 and above, the lens and its associated muscles lose its elasticity and so its ability to bulge forward so as to focus on near objects is compromised. Therefore a plus lens (usually called readers) is needed to aid in near vision.

I have very poor eyesight, and I can’t imagine a world without my glasses or contacts. (Ellen Hollman)

Glasses are classified based on their design. There is the single vision glasses which is purposely for “sight”. Then, the bifocal which is for both near and “sight”. The last type is called the progressive lens which is designed to give comfortable vision at near, intermediate and distance.

The immediate alternative to wearing glasses to see better is getting contact lenses, but it comes along with its own attendant complications. The other alternative is surgery, which has even more complications. But why will you want to go through all this bother if you can easily get tested for glasses and wear them….? 

Without her glasses Vivian did look a little frightening. She had tight sinewy strappy muscles and a face that was hardened and almost brutal – a face that might have been chiseled by a sculptor who had fallen out of love with the idea of beauty. (Brian Morton)

Right now, all white people are either wearing or coveting a pair of Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses. These sunglasses are so popular now that you cannot swing a canvas bag at a farmer’s market without hitting a pair. In fact, at outdoor gatherings you should count the number of Wayfarers so you can determine exactly how white the event is. If you see no Wayfarers you are either at a country music concert or you are indoors.” (Christian Lander)

The second reason why we were spectacles if for FASHION. The first thing people notice about you is your face. True or false? I will leave you to decide that one. People wear spectacles these days to bring attention to the eye or better still, face.

Mostly, people go in for large sized frames that complement their outlook. Most ladies these days prefer “Cat Eye” frames – it drastically changes their facial appearance for the better. The most popular designer frame is Ray Ban. Other designer frames that people wear include Tomford, Carrera, Cartier, Gucci, Prada, Nike and so on. The amazing thing about some of these designer frames is that, you can wear them for any occasion; weddings, funerals, parties, lectures, you name it. 

In his article The Hidden Psychology of Wearing Glasses, Rick Paulas writes:
Years ago, I noticed an old friend wearing glasses for the first time. When I asked her if she’d just decided to forgo her contacts (contact lens) she replied that she had, in fact, not. She didn’t own contacts, you see, and the frames she wore held nothing but non-prescriptively bent glass. They were on her face for fashion, nothing but. As a glasses wearer of over two decades, this did not sit right with me. And I told her so, in dramatic and particularly expletive terms.

But, maybe I was wrong. She’s not alone in her fashion sense: A bunch of NBA players typified the trend in 2012, when they did pressers with lens-less, Urkel-esque frames. The point is, you don’t see glasses and think nothing. Full-rim glasses give off less attractive, yet more intelligent, vibes when compared to rimless glasses or non-spectacled faces. In light of the latter impression, job interviewees have been shown to perform better when wearing glasses.”

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Klopp with his broken spectacles

Ah well!! Get that designer frame and rock it!

The final reason why people wear spectacles if for PROTECTIVE purpose. Some lenses have SPECIAL COATINGS that help protect the eyes and in the process, does not compromise comfortable, clear vision. Have you heard of anti-reflective lens (AR lens)…? How about photoCHROMIC lenses…? NOT photoCHRONIC as most people pronounce it.

Sunglasses are great, but I always feel a bit pretentious wearing sunglasses. I mean, I do love to wear them.”  (Daphne Guinness)

Photochromic lens is a type of lens that changes colour depending on the INTENSITY of LIGHT at any point in time. When indoors, the colour is clear. When exposed to sunlight, the molecules in the lens change their shape and by some mechanism, the colour becomes dark, therefore, looks like sunglasses. Last time out, I was telling my cousin how sunlight causes a lot of illness.

I never go out during the day without sunglasses.” (Tory Burch)

The sun emits dangerous ultraviolet radiation of three types : UVA, UVB and UVC. The most dangerous is UVC which thankfully, is blocked by the ozone layer.

UVA is the commonest and this is what the photochromic lens protects the eyes against (and also UVB).  UVA can cause so many problems to the eyes and so some form of protection against that is key.

Some people cannot tolerate the sun in general. They are PHOTOPHOBIC! We prescribe photochromic lenses for such patients. Constant exposure to sunlight facilitates the development and growth of certain eye conditions commonly cataract and pterygium. Worse of, you can acquire retinal diseases. Diseases of the retina are very very serious and can lead to permanent, irreversible loss of vision. So photochromic lenses might have several functions for an individual. Whilst providing clear vision, it also protects their eyes from the harmful sun rays and also makes them comfortable whilst walking in the sun.

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Finally, it prevents the development of eye diseases. So that is it for photochromic lenses. All hands are not equal. Some people cannot afford photochromic lenses but they need help! So there are tinted glasses, which are less costly but serve similar purpose. Tinted glasses are permanently dark (we have full tint and slight tints though). They cannot change colour depending on the intensity of the light; they stay the same.
Next, we talk about Anti-reflective lenses. Others refer to them as anti-glare lenses. Well, some people are extra sensitive to light; others feel uncomfortable even under optimum lighting conditions. The sources include light from fluorescent bulbs, radiations from computer screens, mobile phones, tablets, capsules, syrups, sorry, I’m not concentrating. It’s 2:34am as at the time of writing this piece. And it’s Saturday!!!

Now back to business. Those who regularly use the computer complain of dry eyes, eye strain and general sensitivity to the brightness of the screen. Many more do not drive at night due to discomfort glare from the headlamps of on-coming vehicles. Anti-reflective lenses work in a way such that, it deflects light rays so as to prevent glare.

These two coatings, photochromic and anti-reflective can be put together in one lens to serve their various functions at the same time. This is called photo/AR lenses. You can also have them separate; White AR (without the photo component) or just photo.

Lastly, wearing glasses protects your eye against environmental conditions such as dust and dirt which can cause discomfort. Wearing glasses can also protect your eyes from potential penetrating ocular injuries.

I have had three patients who have ‘’given thanks’ to their glasses for protecting their eyes in accidents that they were involved in. One of them said his lens protected him from a potentially blinding injury from a sharp metal during the accident. The lens took most of the impact, but he still had some injuries to his eyes though. It would have been much more fatal without the glasses.

So the next time you see me in my spectacles, don’t think I cannot see well; don’t be myopic, literally, in your conclusions. I’m wearing it for fashion and for protective purposes!

The writer, Dr Emmanuel Ekow Ampiah mostly known as Madridista Firmer is an intern Optometrist at the Cape Coast Teaching Hospital, Ghana. He is also the administrative manager of a soon-to-be-outdoored eye clinic. Dr Ampiah’s prime interest centres on providing quality and affordable eye care services to patients without compromising professionalism. He has interest in paediatrics and refraction/refractive errors. He speaks sarcasm as a preferred language, loves comedy, discusses football with passion and strives to be versatile. He knows that in a parallel universe EVERYONE WEARS GLASSES……….FOR SOME REASON

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