Birmingham

Birmingham

An eye opening experience makes everything clear at last

I suffer from Bronchiectasis, a permanent abnormal widening (dilation) in one or more of the airways (bronchi). Extra mucus tends to form and pool in the parts of the airways that are widened. Widened airways with extra mucus are prone to infection. For a long time I woke in the morning with a sore chest and full of catarrh in my nose and throat. Two years ago I started back at the gym and after building up my cardiovascular training I was finally able to have a relatively normal life again, however the headaches which I had for years didn't seem to budge. After a long and drawn out period of visits to my GP and regular dosing up of paracetamol, my partner (who wears contact lenses) asked me if I had ever had an eye test.  I decided that this was probably a good thing to do as I could no longer read a registration plate clearly at the legal distance required so off I went to Specsavers...who else?

Specsavers was founded in 1984 by Doug and Mary Perkins, who started the business in their spare bedroom on a table-tennis table. The couple had moved to Guernsey after selling a small chain of West Country opticians. In the early 1980s the UK Government deregulated professionals, including opticians, allowing them to advertise their products and services for the first time. They seized the opportunity and opened their first Specsavers, value-for-money, quality eye care opticians in Guernsey and Bristol, followed shortly by stores in Plymouth, Swansea and Bath. They aimed to offer a wide range of stylish, fashionable glasses at affordable prices for everyone. They wanted the company to be seen as trustworthy as a local independent but with the huge buying power of a national companythat meant savings could be passed on to the customer.

Specsavers is still very much a family run business with family values to match and over the past few years, the company has donated more than £1 million to various charities. Recipients include Guide Dogs, Deafness Research UK, Diabetes UK, anti-bullying charity Kidscape, Sightsavers and Fight for Sight, among many others.

On arriving at my appointment in Specsavers Kings Heath, store  director Peter Squire greeted me and explained how the process would work. First was a tour of the various departments and I was amazed to see what had looked like a small shop floor turned out to be a complete smooth operation, with countless members of staff each with their own individual area to manage, or support, spanning several corridors and floors.

Firstly, the pressures in my eyes were tested which was a rather unpleasant experience as it was my first time.

Then another test is completed before a hearing test was performed, an area which the company has been involved in since 2002. Remarkably, despite a history of poor hearing, and a succession of operations in my childhood seeing both grommets and ear tubes fitted to my ear drums, in my later years it seems that I now have A1 hearing.

I then experienced the fundus camera, which plays an imperative role in the prevention of many eye conditions such as glaucoma and diabetes. It enables the store to take a photograph of the eye which can be used to track the health of the back of the eye for comparison purposes on my next visit.

After the preliminary tests are done I proceed to my scheduled appointment with my optometrist, where state of the art technology tests my eyes.

This is where it gets really interesting. My sight is so bad in fact that I am far down the spectrum of needing glasses. I actually have a strong prescription on the right eye. There's also something called an Astigmatism - a type of refractive error of the eye.

It's not something that someone who hasn't worn glasses can easily adjust to however, and so my prescription does need some alterations before I feel comfortable. The staff at the store are extremely accommodating though, and ensure that every effort to re-check the order is made before I am given the correct lenses. These are then fitted, adjusted and checked to ensure maximum comfort.

Specsavers offers a wide range of designer glasses including Karen Millen, Bench, FCUK Vision, French Connection, Gok Wan and Jasper Conran all available at high street prices.

If however, your budget is a little larger, you can find additional ranges of designer glasses and sunglasses at opticians such as David Clulow, who can be found amongst some of the most exclusive boutiques and shopping centres in the country.

My rep at David Clulow is extremely knowledgeable and from my prescription quickly points out that as I have got quite a strong prescription, for my sunglasses, I can't choose a frame with too much of a curve on. This would distort the lenses and isn't something which is advisable but despite this, many people around the world choose the wrong frames, which can actually worsen the eyes in the long run.

The good thing about David Clulow is that they have a number of alternative designer brands. This includes those such as Marc Jacobs, Bvulgari, Tom Ford and Chanel to name a few.

I opted to go with some Prada Aviators because they have flat lens distribution which will work well for my prescription.

The major thing to understand when thinking about getting your eyes tested is that looking into your eyes can show the early signs of other underlying conditions, and so should be part of your general health care routine. Whether you are looking for a great value high street name or a high end exclusive service, both Specsavers and David Clulow are excellent companies to help get you started.

To book an appointment visit www.specsavers.co.uk or www.davidclulow.com