Welcome to February! Christmas and the New Year seem a distant memory already don’t they? Many of you may not immediately realise the significance of the year 2020 and the fact that it is a VERY exciting year, especially for opticians. Let me enlighten you. 20/20 vision is the standard that is considered to be “normal” vision. It’s an Americanism, referring to a particular line of letters on a standard eye test chart. It basically means that a person with 20/20 vision can see an object at a distance of 20 feet that a person with “normal” vision would also be able to see at 20 feet. By comparison, someone who has vision of 20/200 can only see a target at 20 feet that a person with “normal” vision would be able to see at 200 feet. Still with me? Good! In the UK, oddly, we use the metric system instead of the Imperial system, so for us 20/20 becomes 6/6! This is the line that we hope most people with “normal” vision will be able to achieve.
But for some people this line of letters can take on a whole new meaning. Men, in particular, often view an eye test as a personal challenge, the ultimate test of their masculinity, of their mettle, as though the optician is really testing them to see what they’re made of! Men like to rise to the challenge and give it their all. They’re going to read that smallest line of letters if it’s the last thing they do (not realising of course that I have a few more even smaller lines of letters up my sleeve!) And if the Optometrist congratulates them on having 20/20 vision, what they actually hear (and tell their friends and wives/partners) is “You have the vision of a fighter pilot.”
This allows this particular alpha-male a few minutes to bask in the glow of his achievements with his friends in the pub, casually mentioning that of course they could have been a fighter pilot if they’d really wanted to. Some men are so confident and proud of their visual prowess that they fail to listen to their Optometrist or partner or anyone else who tries to suggest that they might actually benefit from or even need glasses. Normally this type of eye test goes a little like this:
Optometrist: “So, how do you feel about your vision?”
Man: “Oh, yeah, brilliant. I can literally see for miles. I can see the moon! I’ve always had exceptional vision! I could have been a fighter pilot you know, if hadn’t been for my dodgy knees! I’m only here really to keep the wife happy.”
Optometrist: “Ok, that all sounds really good. Can you try reading that line of letters on the chart opposite for me?”
Man (squinting): “What chart?”
As I write this newsletter, the optical journals and periodicals are awash with the hope that the year 2020 will be a watershed moment, that it will convince the good people of the UK and the wider world to invest in an eye test and look after their eye health (which of course is important). Personally, I fear that the year on the calendar won’t be enough to change anyone’s behaviour, so just to be on the safe side I’ll continue to write this newsletter every month or so to encourage you to think about your eyes, your eye health and your eyewear a bit more frequently.
Just for the record though, I am all for Optometrists promoting the importance of regular eye exams because far too many people neglect their vision and eye health. And when you think that 50% of all vision loss is preventable it’s even more of a “no brainer” to have your eyes examined regularly. As a practice, we promote healthy eyes and vision through these pages, our Eye Health Talks with local award-winning Consultant Ophthalmologist Theo Empeslidis, our fundraising for Vision Aid Overseas, Guide Dogs and VISTA, and we’ve made significant investment in state-of-the-art hospital standard diagnostic equipment, all with the aim of reducing unnecessary sight-loss.
So, if you’re reading this article and recognise the “fighter pilot” in your life, maybe this should be the year we really put them to the test! And no, being able to see the moon isn’t really an indicator of how good your vision is!