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About Allegro

‘See The Best’ – Award winning eyecare in Meltham, Greenfield and now Marsden

A brand new practice arrives in the heart of Marsden

We are thrilled to announce that our brand new practice opened last Saturday in the picturesque village of Marsden. The new premises is located at 30 Peel Street in the centre of the Marsden village and was opened by Carol Baxter, Musical Director of the Holme Valley Flutes who played at the occasion. Carol was Allegro Optical’s very first customer when we opened our Meltham practice.

Allegro Optical opened its first Optician’s practice in Meltham in 2017 and there are currently eight members of the founding family working at the business, committed to providing exceptional customer service and products to clients in West Yorkshire and Lancashire.

Since opening our first practice over five years ago, we have ensured that every Allegro Optical practice offers a thoroughly professional and friendly service, in a clean, modern and welcoming environment. We offer comprehensive eye examinations and professional dispensing services by highly qualified Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians. In fact, our team of six Dispensing Opticians includes ‘three national Dispensing Opticians of the Year’. Stephen, Sheryl and Kim won the national award in 2006, 2019 and 2021 respectively. We combine the very latest technology and equipment and the skill set of highly consummate professionals, to provide you with the very best eye care possible.     

We also offer a full contact lens service, visual stress assessments, Optical Coherence Tomography, saccadic eye-tracking and a complete hearing care service with our fully qualified Audiologists, hearing aid dispensers and Hearing Care Nurse providing a comprehensive ear wax removal service including irrigation and microsuction, giving you the option to choose the method you prefer.

Group Managing Director Stephen Tighe states:  “We as directors have made a firm commitment to not only survive these difficult times but to grow and thrive during them. Due to the success of our Greenfield practice which opened in 2019, the previous history of Allegro Optical in Meltham and the opportunity to acquire new premises in Marsden, we believe this is the perfect time to expand. As a former resident of Marsden, I think the village has a great deal of potential in the future.  We are very happy to come to Marsden and we are looking forward to welcoming new clients to our practice.

The two-storey premises brings more capacity for clients, with a state of the art test room, a camera equipment room, eyewear styling room and a large shop floor, which is currently playing host to an exhibition of local art by artists Matt Turner and Kevin Threlfall. Which hopefully will help the local arts community.

The expansion has also allowed Allegro Optical to take on another professional optometrist and a dispensing optician to cope with increasing demand.

Optical Managing Director Sheryl Doe said: “We wanted to make Marsden a flagship, capable of accommodating the latest technology, but without it feeling or looking clinical  and we are delighted with the results.”

If you live locally and would like to take the opportunity to experience award-winning dispensing and eye care we would love to welcome you. 
We’re also now offering a style consultation service to help you find the perfect pair to suit your style. So please give us a call in either Marsden 01484 768888, Greenfield 01457 353100 or Meltham 01484 907090 to find the perfect match. Also, follow us on Twitter @AllegroOptical. Or on Instagram @allegrooptical.

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Music

Guest blog by pianist Norma Wilson

Norma Wilson is a pianist and flautist from the West Country. She first visited Allegro Optical in 2020 and has since collaborated with us on several projects including The RSM & BAPAM, Sustaining A Career Into Old Age podcast. 

In this blog, Norma talks about how Wet Macular Degeneration has impacted her career and how she manages her condition to continue playing.

Wet Macular Degeneration – a musicians perspective.

I am a keen amateur musician.  From a young age I would borrow music scores from the library and I am a proficient sight-reader.  In 2016 I was diagnosed with Wet Macular Degeneration in both eyes. The onset was very sudden ( I noticed Fiona Bruce looked beetroot colour with a very long face when I watched the News) and when the second eye was affected I was devastated when the Eye Consultant said it could affect the way I read music. 

I had noticed that when I looked at music notation the lines were wavy, there were some blurry patches.  The main problem was the light, I would get a sparkling effect when I moved my eyes from the score to the keyboard and back again.  The light was refracted and I had a general feeling that my vision was distorted.  

Fortunately, I read an article about Allegro Optical, in SideView, the Macular Society Newsletter.  I live in Bristol but made the journey to Meltham to see if they could help me. Allegro Optical describe themselves as a musicians’ optician.  It was a very different eye assessment, I took music along, there was a piano and a music stand.  The measuring process to make me special ‘music reading glasses’ took quite a while.  Allegro Optical have a piano and music stands, so I took some music with me and my flute which I play as well as the piano. 

  • I had an eye test, which included an OCT scan, a field of vision scan my eye movements were tracked and I had an eScoop assessment for my AMD.
  • They measured the distance between the music score to my eyes both seated at the piano and standing with my flute in front of a music stand.  They were trying to find my ‘working distance’  in my case 21 “
  • My previous optician had tried several times to make me some music reading glasses, they were single view with increased magnification, but that did not address the problem and created more distortion and reduced the field of vision. 
  • Allegro Optical were considering colour and prism. They measured eye to music, eye to stand, eye to piano and how wide my field of vision was. I was persuaded to have a slight yellow filter, I have to say this has helped reduce the sense of eye strain. 

When we consider how a musician reads a score we know that

  • You often read more than one line at a time, treble and bass clefs, but if you play with other people you read across four or more staves.  Your eyes are looking up and down and across. If you then turn your gaze away from the score to look at your fellow musicians you are looking into a different light source and back again. 
  • Light is of the essence, so getting advice on this is important. 
  • Relying solely on reading from a paper score is not always easy so over the years I have been advised to get an IPad Pro (larger iPad A4) and to use several Apps:
  • it depends greatly on which software is used, but Scoringnotes.com for instance tends to make adaptations that work for the visual effect of the score.
    > More detailed information on this can be found here:
    https://www.imore.com/best-music-reading-apps-ipad
    https://www.musicnotes.com/now/tips/the-3-best-hands-free-page-turners/
  • IMSLP  International Music Score Library Project  it started in February 2006. It is a project for the creation of a virtual library of public domain music scores based on the wiki principal. There is  forScore, Piascore, Musescore etc

I was advised that I scan my own score and then get it in Dropbox and then get that into the App ForScore which I use on the iPad. But whether or not you do that or just download, the important thing to get it bigger is to have an iPad Pro (large screen size) and then turn it on its side. That makes the music much bigger—though of course then you have to turn the page twice as much! Using an iPad also helps because it is backlit so the light is more consistent. 

It is important for me that I continue to play music as I age and with my specialist music reading glasses, iPad and the use of various Apps I know I can continue for many years to come. 

Norma Wilson

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About Allegro

Post COVID-19 Eye Exam Upgrade

Are Private Eye Tests Better than NHS Sight Tests?

Many people are eligible for free NHS sight tests, but anyone who doesn’t meet the criteria must pay for a private eye exam. The question is, which is better?

One of the biggest differences between an NHS sight test and a private eye examination is the thoroughness of the examination itself and the number of different investigative tests and assessments carried out during the examination. 

NHS Sight Test

During an NHS funded sight test, the optometrist will also take a history of your health and vision. They will check your vision using a sight test chart and carry out an examination of your eye.  If clinically necessary you will also be offered a visual field screening test to check your peripheral vision,a check of your eye pressure and the optometrist may also take a photograph of your retina.  

NHS sight tests take between 15 to 20 minutes and you will be issued with a prescription. If eligible you will be given an optical voucher to help with the cost of your glasses.

Going Private and Advanced Optometry

During a private eye examination this initial process is similar to an NHS sight test, but what follows is a more detailed examination of the eye. All the private eye exams at Allegro Optical take between 45 – 60  minutes and include fundus photography, which captures a digital photograph of the inner surface of your eyes. 

Further tests including eScoop, for Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), tear film assessments for dry eye, Colorimetry for visual stress, migraine and dyslexia may also be required. 

Our Advanced Optometry eye examinations are more bespoke and give clients the opportunity to tailor their eye examination to their concerns. Eye exams can include a 3D OCT eye scan, similar to an ultrasound scan. 3D OCT scans reveal the many layers that make up the back of your eyes which cannot be seen using the traditional methods used during an NHS sight test. 3D OCT scans can detect early changes in the eye allowing us to detect some conditions up to four years earlier than traditional methods.

In addition to the 3D OCT, clients are offered an extended visual field examination often including a binocular Esterman Visual Field test, similar to that required by the DVLA. This is a 120 point test and allows us to plot both your central vision and also your peripheral vision. It also checks for any scotomas (blind spots) reduced fixation or areas of reduced sensitivity. 

Allegro Optical is the only optical group in the area to offer Saccadic eye-tracking for binocular balance and ocular dominance issues. 

At the end of the eye examination you will be issued with your prescription, and an eye health report including your OCT scan, field plots and your eye tracking report if required.

Eye exam Upgrade

Throughout April and May Allegro Optical is offering everyone an eye exam upgrade. Those eligible for NHS sight tests will be offered a free upgrade to a private eye examination and those who pay privately will be offered the Advanced Optometry eye exams for the same price.

If you are due an eye exam and would like to upgrade free of charge book your eye exam today call Meltham on 01484 907090 or from mid April you can visit our new practice in Marsden by calling 01484 76888

Categories
Music

#SeeTheMusic and More – Cataracts, are they clouding your performance?

Cataracts and the performing arts professional

Being the UK’s only performing arts eye care specialists and the only optician registered with the British Association For Performing Arts Medicine (BAPAM), we understand first-hand how eye disorders can negatively impact a career. 

Artists such as musicians, dancers, singers, presenters and technicians including camera operators, sound engineers and Audio-visual technicians, are just some of the performing arts professionals we have assisted to see the music.

At some point in our lives, most of us will have vision problems. The majority of these problems are caused by refractive errors, which means they’re problems with the way the eyes focus light, rather than an eye disease or disorder. However, there are some eye disorders and diseases that many of us could experience. This blog series highlights the common eye conditions that many performing arts professionals encounter. 

Here is our list of the 5 most common eye disorders and diseases:

  • Cataracts

    are a widely occurring eye problem and usually affect people over the age of 65. Most have a visually impairing cataract in one or both eyes. Cataracts are usually seen as the formation of a dense, cloudy area in the lens of the eye. When this happens, light is simply unable to pass through to the retina and the victim is unable to clearly see objects in front of them.

  • Dry eye disease

    is a common condition that occurs when your tears aren’t able to provide adequate lubrication for your eyes. Some people may experience subtle, but constant, eye irritation to significant inflammation and even scarring of the front surface of the eye. 

In different parts of the world, dry eye syndrome affects anywhere from 5% to 50% of the population. Contact lens wearers are particularly susceptible to the condition. The condition is also common in the elderly.

  • Glaucoma

    causes damage to the eye’s optic nerve.  In most cases, this is due to fluid buildup and increased internal pressure. This interferes with the transmission of images from the optic nerve to the brain. If the buildup of pressure continues without treatment, it may lead to permanent loss of vision. 

Glaucoma progresses relatively quickly and can cause blindness within a few years. The most common symptoms of glaucoma include tunnel vision, peripheral vision loss, blurry eyes, halos around the eyes, and redness of the eyes.

  • Macular degeneration (AMD)

    is a condition affecting the central part of your view. It typically affects people in their 50s and 60s. The condition does not cause total blindness. Nevertheless, it can make everyday tasks difficult, such as reading and recognising faces.

Your vision may deteriorate without treatment. AMD can develop slowly over several years (“dry AMD”) or rapidly over a few weeks or months (“wet AMD”).

The exact cause of AMD is unknown. The risk factors include smoking, high blood pressure, being overweight, and having a family history of AMD.

  • Retinal Detachment

    is precisely what it sounds like. It is the detachment of the retina from its place within the eye. There may be small tears in the retina before the whole retina is detached. If it is left untreated, complete vision loss can occur in the affected eye. It sounds painful, but people rarely feel any pain during retinal detachment.

There are various warning signs that a retinal detachment may occur. These include blurred vision, a sudden appearance of light flashes, and a curtain-like shadow in one’s field of vision.

Cataracts: An overview…

Cataracts are the result of the crystalline lens, developing cloudy patches. The crystalline lens is an important part of the eye’s anatomy that allows the eye to focus on objects at varying distances. It is located behind the iris and in front of the vitreous body.

These patches tend to grow larger over time, causing blurry, misty vision and eventually blindness.

Our lenses are generally clear when we’re young, allowing us to see through them. As we age they start to become frosted or yellow, like dirty bathroom windows, often severely limiting vision.

It is common for both eyes to be affected by cataracts. That said, they may not necessarily develop at the same time or be the same type of cataract in each eye. They’re more common in older adults and can impact daily activities such as driving. Cataracts can also affect young children and babies.

Seeking medical advice

Consult an optician if any of these symptoms occur:

  • Blurred or misty vision
  • Lights seem too bright or glaring 
  • You have trouble seeing in low light
  • Night driving is difficult
  • Colours appear faded
  • If you wear glasses, you may feel your lenses need constant cleaning, or that your lens coating isn’t working.

Although most cataracts aren’t painful and won’t irritate your eyes, if they’re in an advanced stage or you suffer from another eye disorder, they may cause discomfort.

Performing Arts Professionals and Cataracts

Q: Can Cataracts Affect My Performance?

A:  Cataracts can affect sight-reading and your ability to perform if your vision is affected as a result.  The crystalline lens is similar to the camera lens. Through it, light is focused on the retina for processing as vision. Cataracts form when Collagen, the most abundant protein in the body, builds up on the lens, clouding vision.

As cataracts progress, you may encounter issues with limited vision.  You may have difficulty seeing music on the stand, the accidentals, dynamics or even key signatures. For dancers, dance notation may appear blurred or for production staff problems viewing computer screens may become evident.  As cataracts progress, they can affect more aspects of your day-to-day and performing life if left unchecked.

We find that musicians tend to feel the effects of cataracts sooner than most general practice clients. This is because cataracts cause problems with sight-reading and depending on the type of cataract can appear as blurred patches or discoloured areas across the music manuscript. 

There are 31 types of cataracts, but the 3 main types of age-related cataracts are nuclear sclerotic, posterior subcapsular and cortical. Because they’re grouped by where they form, they present slightly different symptoms, develop at different speeds, and have different causes. They can all cause progressive vision loss, which means the vision gets worse over time.

Nuclear sclerotic cataract

Nuclear sclerosis is the most commonly occurring type of cataract. ‘Nuclear’ refers to it from the nucleus of the lens, while ‘sclerosis’ refers to hardened body tissue. 

Symptoms

It is difficult to focus when you have nuclear sclerosis. As your sight deteriorates, you might experience a temporary improvement in your close-up vision. As your cataract progresses, your vision will deteriorate again. Objects at a distance will appear blurry and colours will appear faded as the lens yellows further.

Cortical cataract

‘Cortical’ refers to the outer layer of something, which describes this cataract as being on the outer edge of the lens,– the opposite of a nuclear sclerotic cataract. A cortical cataract develops spoke-like lines that lead to the centre of the lens, scattering light as it enters the eye.

Symptoms

Your vision may be blurred or you may see blurry lines. You can also experience problems with glare from the sun and artificial lighting, as well as driving at night. Cortical cataracts may develop fairly quickly, with symptoms becoming more apparent within months rather than years.

Posterior subcapsular cataract

They form at the back of the lens – i.e., posterior – in the capsule where the lens sits (subcapsular). Cataracts in this area can produce more disproportionate symptoms for their size because the light is more focused towards the back of the lens. Diabetes or extreme short-sightedness place you at greater risk for a subcapsular cataract. Additionally, if you are exposed to radiation or use steroids, you may develop a cataract of this type.

Symptoms

Under certain conditions, a subcapsular cataract can cause difficulty seeing in bright light and can produce glare or halos around lights at night – so it can be particularly problematic when on stage or when dealing with stage lighting. You may have blurry vision and be unable to read.  Subcapsular cataracts tend to develop faster than both nuclear sclerotic and cortical cataracts.

Performers visual demands

Performers are required to use one or more of the following skills:

  • Rapid changes in focus. Changing focus between objects at different distances rapidly and accurately is vision focusing. A musician, for instance, needs to read the music on the stand, look at the conductor and other members of the ensemble all at different distances clearly and accurately. This can be affected by cataracts as they cause the lens to become stiff, affecting the lenses flexibility and the ability to change focus quickly.
  • Vision fixation: The ability to read sheet music, regardless of how fast its tempo. This also can be affected by cataracts as they cause blurring, glare and patchy vision.
  • Peripheral vision: The ability to see and observe out of the corner of your eye when looking at a fixed object such as sheet music on the stand. In an orchestra, a player must be able to see both their stand partner or another member of their section even when they may be unable to alter their head position due to their instrument.  This can be severely compromised by cortical cataracts that begin on the outside edge of the lens (the peripheral). Cortical spokes, or white streaks or wedge-shaped opacities, progress inward on the lens, impairing vision and obstructing light reflection. 
  • Focusing regulation: The ability to retain eye coordination during high-speed activities or while under high physiological pressure.

The above demands can place a lot of pressure on the performer, especially when their vision isn’t up to par. 

Effective treatment of age-related cataracts

For a while, new glasses and brighter reading lights can ease the symptoms of cataracts. 

However, cataracts do get worse over time, so you’ll eventually need surgery to remove and replace the affected lens.

The only proven treatment for cataracts is surgery. During cataract surgery, an artificial lens replaces the cloudy one inside the eye. The procedure is highly effective at improving vision, but it can take between two and six weeks for vision to be fully restored.

Generally, cataract surgery takes 30 to 45 minutes. It is usually done as a day surgery under local anaesthesia, and you can usually go home the same day. 

Monofocal lenses are offered by the NHS, which have a single point of focus. In other words, the lens will be fixed either for near vision or distance vision, but not both.

If you opt to have your surgery privately, both multifocal and accommodating lenses are available to you, which allow you to focus on both near and distant objects.

Unless you have opted for multifocal or accommodating lenses most people will need to wear glasses for some tasks, like reading, using computers or reading music.

If you have cataracts in both eyes, surgery is done 6 to 12 weeks apart to allow the recovery of one eye at a time.

In Summary

Cataract treatment is beneficial to both performers and amateurs. However, they do have limitations and will not stop the ageing process. We recommend that you continue with regular eye examinations after your surgery, Either every two years or 12 months, as recommended by your optometrists. As performers ourselves our unique perspective enables us to offer balanced, impartial advice on all aspects of cataract treatment.

Our optical specialists understand the demands of professional musicians and performing arts professionals. Working in collaboration with our dispensing opticians and optometrists, we are able to assist musicians. It is surprising how many musicians are unaware of the many solutions available to them. 

With the precision of our performing arts eye exams, the expertise of our optometrists and dispensing opticians using cutting edge diagnostic equipment and dispensing procedures our unique approach can help to resolve hyperopic performing arts practitioners’ vision problems.

Contact: To find out more about Allegro Optical, the musicians’ opticians go to; https://allegrooptical.co.uk/services/musicians-optical-services/

Categories
Music

#SeeTheMusic and More – Presbyopia and performing arts professionals

Presbyopia and the performing arts professional

In our unique position as the UK’s only eye care specialists working with performing arts professionals, we are well aware of how eye disorders and refractive errors can negatively impact careers. As BAPAM registered practitioners we are using this series of blogs to highlight and explain many common eye conditions that performers face. The performing arts professionals that we have helped include musicians and presenters, dancers and camera operators, sound technicians and singers.

The four most common types of refractive error are:

  • Myopia or Short-sightedness. Myopia results from light focusing just short of the retina due to the cornea or the eyeball being too long.
  • Hyperopia or Long-sightedness. Generally, hyperopia is a result of the eyeball being too short from front to back, or of problems with the shape of the cornea (the top clear layer of the eye) or lens (the part of the eye that helps the eye to focus).
  • Presbyopia or Old Sight. Presbyopia is caused by a hardening of the eyes crystalline lens, which occurs with ageing. As our lenses become less flexible, they can no longer change shape to focus on close-up images.
  • Astigmatism, or rugby ball-shaped eyes. Astigmatism causes blurred distance and near vision due to a curvature abnormality in the eye. A person with astigmatism either has an irregular corneal surface or a lens inside the eye that has mismatched curves. 

In the UK, 61 percent of people have vision problems that require corrective action. Just over 10 percent of people regularly wear contact lenses, and more than half wear glasses. However, not all vision problems are caused by refractive error. In spite of the name, presbyopia is not caused by refractive error, but rather by the hardening of the crystalline lens of the eye as we age. The lenses become less flexible as they age, so they cannot focus on close-up objects.

There are several symptoms associated with presbyopia, including blurry vision, headaches, and difficulty focusing on objects up close. Vision continues to deteriorate as we age. 

Presbyopia and the musician

Presbyopia affects performing arts professionals slowly over time and may present some with career-limiting consequences A performer with presbyopia has difficulty seeing objects that are close to them clearly, from around the age of 50 this includes the music on the stand. Often objects at a distance remain relatively clear unless the presbyopia is combined with another eye condition or refractive error.  The numerous working distances present a variety of challenges to the performer. The need to see the music on the stand is often the biggest issue. Even so, seeing the conductor, the audience, the soloist, and other sections of the ensemble clearly can pose a challenge. 

What causes presbyopia?

As we age, the lens of our eyes becomes less flexible and we have difficulty focusing on close-up objects. Imagine the eye as a camera. Whether an object is near or far, the lens of the camera can autofocus on it. Our eyes work in a similar way. The iris works with our corneas to focus light. Our curved corneas bend light, and then a tiny circular muscle encircling our crystalline lenses contract or relax, causing a change of focus. The muscle relaxes if the object is far away. When something is close, the muscle contracts, allowing us to focus on nearby items such as a book, computer screen, mobile phone or sheet music. However, as we age, our eyes continue to grow and add layers of cells to the lens – a bit like an onion! As a result, the lens becomes thicker and less flexible. Nearby objects are blurred as a result.

#SeeTheMusic and more

The visual demands of performing artists and those who work in production are extremely diverse. Thus, presbyopia can pose some serious challenges. Musicians and presenters must contend with music on the stand or an autocue for the presenter. In the production control room, the production team views multiple screens on a wall of video monitors. The team typically reviews scripts, running orders, production notes and often musical scores as well. Focusing at multiple distances can be challenging in a fast-paced environment such as this.

Musicians and performers often ask us, as performing arts eye care specialists, “What makes their eyes so unique?” Performers’ vision or their eyes aren’t particularly exceptional, but the way they use them is. Artists share many characteristics with athletes when it comes to the many visual demands they are subjected to.

The vision skills required for all sports, both competitive and non-competitive, differ depending on the sport. The same is true for most performers, whether they are professionals or amateurs, what instrument they play and the ensemble they play in. Their role as a performing arts professional presents different challenges, from sound technicians, camera operators, production staff and lighting engineers, they all have multiple viewing distances and visual demands.

Allegro Optical has developed detailed assessments of vision skills for artists and performers of all ages using advanced diagnostic equipment and investigative techniques.

Most performing arts professionals need one or more of the following skills:

  • Vision focusing:

    A capability to change focus quickly and precisely between objects of different distances. Musicians must be able to read the music on the stand, look at their conductor, and see other sections of the ensemble clearly and accurately from different distances.

  • Vision fixation:

    Music reading skills, particularly at a fast tempo and regardless of how fast the music moves.

  • Peripheral vision:

    Observing an object out of the corner of your eye, such as a sheet of music on a stand or a bank of flat or curved screens in a production room. Even when a player is unable to alter their head position due to their instrument, they must still be able to see both their stand partner or another member of their section.

  • Focusing regulation:

    Maintaining eye coordination during high-speed activities or when under high physiological pressure.

Effective treatment of Presbyopia

Spectacles

Presbyopia presents unique challenges for first-time spectacle wearers, such as a reduction in depth of focus when wearing reading glasses. Spectacles used solely to correct presbyopia (reading glasses) have a number of disadvantages, including an enlarged image size or magnification, peripheral distortions, and a reduced field of vision.

All of these present performance-limiting challenges to the performer. As Michael Downes, Director of Music St Andrew’s University said “Things had become more challenging very quickly – until I was 47 or 48 I didn’t have any problems at all, but then they rapidly became severe. The ‘tipping point’ was an April 2019 concert – I realised that unless I did something about it I would no longer be able to carry on doing my job to a satisfactory standard.

Without the help given me by Allegro Optical, I think I would be continuing to have very severe difficulties.”  

Many performing arts professionals turn to varifocals, bifocals or “office” lenses to resolve their vision problems, however all of these lenses present the musician with problems. Even the very best individual designs and “tailor made” varifocal lenses provide a narrow field of clear vision. 

Occupational, “Office” or computer lenses provide a wider field of view, but the depth of field is often limited to 2-4 metres.

Bifocal lenses do offer a limited solution in that the bottom of the lens will magnify the music on the stand and the upper part of the lens provides a clear view of the conductor, however, the wearer does experience two different image sizes. This is known as image jump and it can present problems to some wearers.

Contact lenses

Some performers prefer to use contact lenses, particularly if they find using glasses inconvenient or unattractive.

The lightweight and near-invisible properties of contact lenses make them appealing to performers, but a presbyopic correction can sometimes be less satisfactory if not worn before.  Presbyopic contact lens wearers often complain that they can’t see as well in contact lenses and that their distance vision is compromised.  In addition to a long-wear period and a dry, warm and often dusty environment, wearing contact lenses on stage can also exacerbate dry eyes. Most contact lens wearers experience dry eye symptoms toward the end of the day. Unfortunately, the majority of musicians perform in the evening, so this often coincides with their performances. For musicians, especially those who work as freelancers or session musicians, dry eyes can lead to blurred patches of vision that make sight-reading difficult.

Laser eye surgery

Laser eye surgery is often considered as a way around having to use glasses and contact lenses, we would add a word of caution here for performing arts professionals. We see many clients who come to us a few years after having undergone laser surgery. Most complain that while they can still see well in the distance and for reading, their music reading distance is deteriorating, especially if they have opted for a monovision correction. When performers ask us about laser surgery we usually recommend lens replacement surgery. 

Lens implant surgery

Lens implants are a viable and long-term treatment for presbyopia. A small incision is made in the cornea to implant an artificial multifocal lens into your eye to focus light more clearly onto the retina for all distances.

Also known as Refractive lens exchange (RLE) is an operation similar to cataract surgery in which the natural lens is removed and replaced with an artificial one.

The procedure is typically done under local anaesthesia, and you can normally go home the same day. The procedure is usually done separately for each eye.

In Summary

Both performers and amateurs find many of the optical corrections discussed above to be a viable solution to the problems posed by presbyopia. Some however find the plethora of solutions available on the high street to be far from ideal. 

As performers ourselves our unique perspective enables us to offer balanced, impartial advice, it also allows us to create unique lens designs and optical solutions to correct the vision disturbance presented by presbyopia. 

Our optical specialists understand the demands of professional musicians and performing arts professionals. Working in collaboration with our dispensing opticians and optometrists, we are able to assist musicians. It is surprising how many musicians are unaware of the many solutions available to them. 

With the precision of our performing arts eye exams, the expertise of our optometrists and dispensing opticians and their access to cutting edge diagnostic equipment and dispensing procedures our unique approach can help to resolve hyperopic performing arts practitioners vision problems.

Contact: To find out more about Allegro Optical, the musicians’ opticians go to; https://allegrooptical.co.uk/services/musicians-optical-services/

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News

Wind Musicians and Glaucoma January is Glaucoma Awareness Month at the “Musicians’ Optician”

The month of January is Glaucoma Awareness Month, a time to raise awareness of the leading cause of irreversible blindness. We take Glaucoma very seriously at Allegro Optical since many of our staff members are wind instrumentalists. 

Researchers have recently concluded that musicians who play high-resistance wind instruments may be more inclined to develop glaucoma. This is because blowing into high-resistance wind instruments causes the body to automatically perform a Valsalva manoeuvre in response to certain stimuli. Wind instrumentalists take a breath, but before they begin playing there is a momentary hesitation as their tongues rise up and lock in place, building up air pressure in their mouth.

Focusing on musicians eye pressure

JS Schuman demonstrated in 2000 that playing notes with high resistance and amplitude increases eye pressure significantly. When playing their instruments, high- and low-resistance wind musicians experience a transient increase in intraocular pressure (IOP). Optometrists measure this with the puff of air test. Players with high resistance to wind experience a greater increase in IOP than those with low resistance to wind. 

A small but significantly higher incidence of visual field loss (loss of peripheral vision) was observed among wind musicians who had high resistance.  According to JS Schuman, long-term intermittent elevations in IOP during the playing of high-resistance wind instruments, such as a trumpet, can result in glaucomatous damage that could be misdiagnosed as normal-tension glaucoma.

Soprano and Alto Saxophonists, French Horn players, Soprano Cornet players and Oboists experienced smaller increases in IOP. Once a musician stops blowing into the instrument, the IOP returns to normal. During playing instruments, these players may experience “transient” (in terms of hours) periods of increased eye pressure. Because it has not been studied, no one knows how common glaucoma is among high-resistance wind instrument players. A musician who has more than one risk factor is probably more susceptible to glaucoma. A short-sighted professional trumpet player with a family history of glaucoma, for example, would have an extremely high risk of developing glaucoma.

Who Is Susceptible To Glaucoma?

Glaucoma and its effects should be of concern to everyone. Some people are at greater risk of developing this disease because of certain conditions related to it. Among them are:

  1. Those with a family history of glaucoma.
  2. People of Afro-Caribbean origin are four times more likely to get glaucoma than Caucasians.
  3. Short-sightedness (needing glasses to see at distance) increases the risk of developing primary open-angle glaucoma. Another type of glaucoma, angle-closure glaucoma, is more common in long-sighted individuals (who require glasses for near tasks).
  4. Glaucoma is also more likely to affect people with diabetes, those who have had eye injuries, or those who have had long-term treatment with steroids.

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is not one disease. In reality, it is caused by various diseases that affect the eye. These diseases cause glaucoma by gradually deteriorating the cells of the optic nerve, which transmits visual impulses from the eye to the brain. The nature of glaucoma can be clarified by understanding how the eye works.

An eye is filled with a jelly-like substance referred to as vitreous. In the front of the eye, a small compartment, the anterior chamber, is filled with a watery fluid, the aqueous humor, which not only nourishes the cornea and lens but also provides the necessary pressure to maintain the eye’s shape. Intraocular pressure, or IOP, is the name given to this pressure. 

A gland behind the iris produces aqueous humor, called the ciliary body. After nourishing both the cornea and lens, it drains through a thin, spongy tissue only one-fiftieth of an inch wide, called the trabecular meshwork. As this drain clogs, aqueous humor cannot leave the eye at the speed it is produced. Consequently, the fluid backs up and the pressure in the eye increases.

Damage caused in the eye by increased pressure

The optic nerve can be damaged by glaucoma. Gradually, this nerve deteriorates, causing blind spots in the visual field, particularly in the periphery. Normally, the “cup” in the centre of the optic disc is quite small in comparison with the entire optic disc. When the optic nerve is damaged by glaucoma, the nerve fibres begin to die because of increased pressure in the eye and/or a loss of blood flow. As a result of glaucoma, the optic nerve cup enlarges (and in reality, the optic nerve enlarges as a result). Although the exact reason for this occurrence is unknown, increased eye pressure is likely to be the cause of this nerve damage. 

We all want to enjoy as long a music-making career as possible, we all know making music isn’t just a hobby, it’s a passion and a way of life. So protect your sight reading by looking after your eye health and your vision. If you can’t sight read the music on the stand you won’t be able to play it. 

Protect your vision and extend your playing career by following a few simple tips. Here are some habits that can reduce the risk of glaucoma-related vision loss include:

  • Have regular eye exams, at least once every two years
  • If you have a family history of glaucoma then have an exam every year
  • Consume lots of leafy greens and fruits
  • Regular and moderate exercise is essential
  • Stay healthy by maintaining a healthy weight
  • Consume coffee moderately, or better yet, sip tea instead
  • Avoid smoking

Give your eyes a little TLC during Glaucoma Awareness Month? Call Allegro Optical in Greenfield or Meltham to schedule an appointment! The best way to maintain good eye health is to have regular eye exams at all ages!

Categories
About Allegro

It’s been a funny old year for this optician

As we look back on what can only be considered another strange year, we’re reviewing the past 12 months. We all started the year glad to see the back of 2020, because let’s face it who would want to go back there again! 

2021 began in tiers, we started the year in tier 4 and the North of England experienced another mini lockdown as the infection rate continued to rise. 

A new year and a new face

In spite of the pandemic, Allegro Optical continued to grow and in March Charlene Bradford joined the team. Charlie joined the team from hearing care provider Amplifon and with her came a wealth of knowledge. 

Spring was music to our eyes and ears

By the spring we were seeing a return of our musical clients as many musicians returned to performing as theatres and concert halls reopened. It was so good to feel nearly normal again and get back to enjoying helping performing artists to #SeeTheMusic.

Helping front line workers

While we were busy helping musicians and performers, Dispensing Optician Kim was busy working her socks off providing the frontline staff of  NHS mid-Yorkshire Trust with prescription safety goggles. Starting with just the one hospital, Pinderfields General Hospital, the project has since grown to include Kirklees and Calderdale trust and Leeds St James’s University Hospital.

An eye on the future

In May, we installed a new OCT machine in Greenfield, making Allegro Optical the ONLY optician in Saddleworth & Meltham to have this hospital grade technology. Taking care of your eyes is now so much easier with our new 3D Ocular Coherence Tomography scanner. It is not available on the NHS, but it is available to NHS patients for a small extra fee. 

An OCT scan can help detect sight-threatening eye conditions earlier. It is possible to detect glaucoma up to four years sooner. Greenfield’s resident Optometrist Sara was over the moon to be able to provide cutting-edge eye care to the people of Saddleworth. Sara commented that she is pleased to now be offering OCT scans as part of eye exams. “OCT adds great value to our optician service, since it enables us to detect and manage conditions with a level of diagnostic capabilities that previously couldn’t be achieved without visiting a hospital,” Said Sara. Detecting these conditions early is the key to helping manage them or referring patients for treatment”.

More new faces

As the year progressed we continued to grow and in July and August, Trainee Optical Assistant Rebecca and Optometrist Liz joined the team. Both young ladies are keen pianists and Liz is also a talented clarinettist.

August was also a month of celebration as Allegro Optical was again named as SME News, West Yorkshire’s Most Trusted Family Run Eye Care Clinic for the second year running.

As a family we usually mark Yorkshire day on the 1st August every year and this year it was particularly special. 

October was all ears

During October, the focus was on hearing care and ear wax removal. Hearing care professionals Audiologist Farzana and Registered Nurse Harriet joined the Allegro Optical family providing Ear Wax removal services such as irrigation and microsuction.

As a result of GPs no longer offering ear syringing, the Ear wax removal service addresses a more prevalent problem in the community than you might think. Harriet has a background in community nursing of more than 10 years and is putting the techniques she has learned to good use. An audiologist by training, Ferzana says her job is a perfect blend of clinical and social aspects. Both ladies work in Meltham and Greenfield, and they are always willing to assist when needed. 

Saving the best till last

In true Hollywood style 2021 saved the best till last when our very own Kim Walker won the prized title of Dispensing Optician of the Year at the Opticians Awards gala dinner in Mayfair. The award is Allegro Optical’s second Opticians Awards win in three years, which recognises excellence in the UK’s optical industry. 

Safety eyewear specialist Kim Walker was shortlisted for this award, one of our industry’s most prestigious in October. Still not quite sure the win really has happened Kim said “It was a privilege to be shortlisted let alone win, I feel truly humbled and this is one the highlights of my life.”

What ever next?

 

As we write this blog, we are experiencing a sense of déjà vu, with new restrictions and COVID-19 measures looming after Christmas, many of us are thinking “Here we go again”. The last thing we want to do is return to 2020.

During the holiday season, we will let our team enjoy some family time and a well-deserved break. We won’t rest on our laurels while they recharge their batteries. Our Greenfield practice in Saddleworth as well as our founding store in Meltham, Holmfirth will undergo renovations and enter the New Year with a new look and cutting-edge equipment. Watch this space!

Categories
News

Poor eye sight and posture

Posture and Eye Sight

Anatomical links affect more than your learning ability, they can influence your health as well. This blog explores the connection between posture and vision. Or in short, how poor vision can affect a performers posture, the related pain and how it can impact on performance.

From the Eyes to the Brain

The eyes are an integral part of our brain, directly connected to our central nervous system. Light is processed by our eyes in order to see. As the beams hit our retinas, they activate rods and cones located in the photoreceptors.

The retina converts the light it receives into electrical impulses that travel along the optic nerve to the brain’s visual cortex.

From the brain to the spine

The visual cortex interprets impulses and uses them to determine how the body should respond. The brain transmits messages down the spinal cord to tell our bodies how to respond to what it sees.

Good posture allows the brain to communicate fast and uninterruptedly through the spine. Each of our five senses, including sight, helps our brain control our body.

But what if the eyes can’t see clearly

Poor eyesight often causes us to squint, lean forward, or tilt our heads into an unnatural position in order to see more clearly. These movements lead to neck, shoulder, and head muscle tightness. This maladjustment can lead to decreased blood flow to and impulse connections between our eyes and the rest of our body over time.

With time, slumped or hunched posture damages the connections between the spinal cord and the brain. In this manner, a lag appears between the moment when our eyes observe an object and the moment when our brain analyses its image and our bodies react to the object. In fact, poor posture can result in many health issues, including slowed circulation, shallow breathing, and blurred vision. All of which impedes our performance and can often affect the sound a musician makes, especially when playing a wind instrument.

When one piece of the puzzle fails

If we have a good posture and decent eyesight (or if it is well corrected), our spine and eyes are well connected. Vision problems, however, interfere with this connection and can have serious health consequences. These may include:

•    Blurred vision, difficulty focusing and even dry sore eyes

•    Fatigue or eye strain

•    Headaches or head pressure

•    Musculoskeletal pain, including headaches, neck and shoulder pain, and   ……back pain

•    Numbness and muscle weakness caused by decreased circulation

•    Spinal or neck misalignment

•    Pain in all parts of the body, including the limbs

Improving performance

Symptoms such as these, when combined with posture problems, can affect your health. If you suspect it is a combination of vision and posture problems, contact Allegro Optical, the musicians optician.

We will begin by evaluating your eyesight. We can tell you if, and to what extent, the way you see affects the way your body functions. You can improve your health by identifying your vision characteristics, even if you wear glasses or contact lenses for vision correction.

In order to make sure our optometrist has all the information they need to help you regain your health, take note of your symptoms and inform them. Important information includes:

•    Treatment you have tried before the current appointment and how well it all worked

•    How often your symptoms occur

•    How severe your symptoms are

•    Where you feel pain, pressure, or discomfort

•    The time of day when symptoms occur

There are several options you can try to relieve your symptoms, including lubricant drops, a more accurate prescription, or new bespoke spectacle lenses or contact lenses. If necessary, you may also need to contact other professionals for assistance.

Consider the effect your eyesight and posture have on one another. Good eyesight supports good posture.

For more information about how you can improve your eye health, how your eyesight affects the rest of your body, call Allegro Optical on Greenfield 01457 353100 and Meltham 01484 907090 and speak to one of our team.

Categories
News

Meet the team – Clinical Support Technician & Trainee Manager James Brooks

Clinical Support Technician & Trainee Manager James Brooks talks about music, glasses and his job

As a child, I wanted to play the trombone. As Diggle’s training band had none spare, I was given a baritone to learn. I enjoyed learning the valves and picked them up very quickly and thoroughly enjoyed myself. After moving up to Diggle ‘B’ Band, it soon became apparent that I needed a bigger instrument. A tenor horn player once complained to the conductor that I was too loud and it was hurting her ears! I was given a Euphonium at the next rehearsal. As the parts were much more interesting, and I had a chance to show off much more on the instrument, I quickly fell in love with it.

Making Music

Competition, or more specifically winning, is what I enjoy most about playing in a brass band. I am lucky enough to have won many many contests with Oldham Band (Lees). I have had some of the happiest and most memorable days of my life participating in brass band contests. Aside from competing, I enjoy being part of a band that makes a big, full sound from top to bottom.

Glasses and how I #SeeTheMusic

Although I wear single vision glasses, I have worn contact lenses in the past. Fortunately, I am young and lucky enough to only require a single vision correction. I started wearing glasses around age 16. Since my first eye test at 16, I gradually became more short sighted, however, my eyesight appears to have stabilised.

During a period of 10 to 12 years, my poor vision affected how I played as my vision changed. Every year, I found that I had to change my glasses because I could not read the music clearly and was having difficulty with semiquavers, accidentals, and notations.

Fortunately, I never needed anything out of the ordinary since I have just a simple correction. In spite of mentioning that I was a musician who was struggling to read my music, I was never offered any special tests or measurements by any of my previous opticians. Musicians have different optical needs than others, which I was unaware of.  It makes sense now! I have no problem reading music now that I have Allegro Optical glasses, no matter how small or dirty the sheet music may be.

 

The importance of prolonging playing careers

The importance of eye-care for performers cannot be overstated. It is every bit as important as hearing care, which I believe orchestras around the world fund, or at least in the UK. If a musician cannot see the music, then how can they perform and read it? It sounds so obvious but eye-care is fundamental in performing arts. Musicians will always need to read music, see conductors, see their instruments, see their colleagues, and potentially even see their audiences. Without being able to see, many musicians and performers will find themselves contemplating retirement. In fact, so many have probably already retired needlessly because of this issue when Allegro Optical has been here all this time waiting to help them.

Working for Allegro Optical is so rewarding as a musician myself. I have often seen fellow musicians who have struggled on for years with run of the mill opticians, who have been unable to fully understand their problems or how to correct them. Seeing the difference we make to people’s lives and being able to help enhance and extend their careers is such a rewarding experience. 

 

Categories
Music

In conversation Cory Band Euphonium player Glyn Williams

Glyn Williams talks to Stephen Tighe 

“In Conversation” is to become a regular interview series, where one of our team sits down with a leading light from the world of music. From musicians to dancers, public speakers to instrument makers, the series allows us to chat with some of the creatives we most admire and talk to them in-depth about their careers, creative processes, and most importantly their vision and eyewear.

Allegro Optical, “the musician’s optician’s” Managing Director Stephen Tighe, talks to Cory Band Principal Euphonium player, Glyn Williams. They cover topics from how COVID 19 has affected the Cory band rehearsals and engagement diary to how Glyn’s new glasses from Allegro Optical have helped his playing and in everyday life.

ST – Glyn, what effect did Covid-19 had on your daily regime as a musician?
GW – “My life as a musician basically stopped during the Covid lockdowns. From four rehearsals a week (minimum) both playing and conducting plus concerts and events every weekend, we went immediately to nothing. I found it hard to motivate myself to practice my euphonium, after all for some considerable time I wasn’t sure what I was practising for! 

Fortunately, as a band, Cory Band were set a series of different challenges by MD Philip Harper. He sent us new music to challenge us and set us pieces to record individually which were then put together as full band performances over the internet. Submitting recordings of yourself certainly sharpens the focus to practice and be able to play your part! 

I also worked online with the band that I conduct, Aldbourne Band from Wiltshire, introducing them to new music and getting them involved in some online performances. Continuing with any kind of music making during Covid 19 has certainly expanded my skill set!”

ST – When banding returns to normal, what events are you looking forward to most?
GW – Things are already feeling busy again with Cory and Aldbourne. The calendar is filling up with concerts and competitions and it is such a joy to be performing live again,  rediscovering that buzz that comes with that.

Symphony Hall Photo?

Performing recently at Symphony Hall in Birmingham and at the Royal Albert Hall in London have of course been highlights.  Continuing in the contesting arena at Sage, Gateshead in November 2021 and then the British Open and European Contests, again at Symphony Hall in 2022 will be exciting. I’m also looking forward to taking Aldbourne Band to my first Area Contest with them in early 2022

ST – Were you aware that musicians had specialist needs, before contacting us?
GW – “I had never considered that being a musician made my eyesight issues special, in fact I don’t think I had ever mentioned reading music to an optician before”. 

Glyn has a broad temple, so finding a frame that fitted him well was crucial. Fitting is very important to the performance of a pair of spectacles. Glyn chose the Jaguar 32005 in colour 4567. By choosing Jaguar, eyewear doesn’t have to be an unattractive necessity, but rather a style-enhancing accessory that will complement your look. Made from Acetate, these grey and blue coloured frames look great on Glyn and are perfect for any occasion

Having been myopic since childhood, Glyn was experiencing the early symptoms of presbyopia, but had managed to adapt to the changes in his vision to some degree. As we age, our eye’s lens hardens, leading to presbyopia. The less flexible our crystalline  lens becomes, the less it can change shape to focus on close-ups. The result is out of focus images.

ST- How are you finding your new spectacles?
GW – “What can I say? My new lenses are absolutely perfect. I have been wearing glasses since I was 9 years old and cannot be without them. These spectacles basically correct everything for me… and made me realise how much I had been struggling before”.

Photo of Glyn in new specs in band uniform

Taking into account Glyn’s very high myopia (short sight), Dispensing Optician Abigayle Doe recommended high index digital lenses. Digital lenses eliminate many aberrations that are unavoidable in conventional lenses. The treatment allows for wider fields of vision that are up to 20% wider than traditional lens surfacing and is six times more accurate than traditional lens surfacing.

ST – What difference has it made?
GW – “Being able to see my music and function as a performing musician is crucial to my daily life. I now know that I need to be comfortable reading music to play, reading a score to conduct… as well as being able to see a computer, watch the tv and not least, be able to see to drive safely! The staff at Allegro understand this and offer solutions”. 

ST – Can you see how performing arts eye-care can be of benefit to prolonging musical careers?
GW – “Frustration is something that doesn’t work or help with being a musician. Being able to actually see your music takes care of that aspect of performance. If I can’t see I can’t be a musician. Fact”.

Helping musicians to #SeeTheMusic

Brass band veteran Stephen Tighe tells 4BR: “Focusing at different distances can be a real challenge for musicians.”

The different focal distances demanded in brass banding pose a challenge to many people. A musician may also experience postural problems brought on by deteriorating vision.

We have a team of optical professionals who understand the playing and seating positions of professional musicians. By working together our teams of dispensing opticians and optometrists are able to assist musicians in overcoming these difficulties so that their working and playing lives can be improved.

Many musicians who experience focusing problems at different distances are unaware that there is a solution to their vision problems. Now thanks to our specialised eye exams, dispensing procedures and unique lenses these problems can be overcome.”

Contact:

To find out more about Allegro Optical, the musicians opticians go to; https://allegrooptical.co.uk/services/musicians-optical-services/

Alternatively call Greenfield 01457 353100 or Meltham 01484 907090