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The Sun, 1 March 2015

Last week Noel Gallagher, former front man of Oasis, announced he is losing his eyesight. According to The Sun, he said, “I do need glasses. But I’m going to wait until I walk into a restaurant and accidentally kiss other women while my wife is at another table before I do anything about it”.

So what’s going on?  The likelihood is that Noel is affected by a common condition called presbyopia, which simply means ‘older person’s eyesight’.  Around their late thirties to mid-forties everyone will notice it takes a little longer to focus on things close up. Objects also start to become blurrier the closer you hold them to your eyes; this is because the distance at which you can comfortably focus is gradually moving further away.

Noel is not alone: according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) more than a billion people worldwide are affected by presbyopia, which is a normal part of the aging process. Of this number, the WHO estimates that, unlike Noel, more than 500 million people worldwide do not have access to adequate spectacle correction. In developing countries, spectacles are increasingly available in towns and cities but not in rural areas, with the result that presbyopia leaves large numbers unable to read, or, consequently, to find work.

Why does presbyopia happen? The lens inside the eye naturally stiffens and gets thicker throughout life. In childhood your lens is very flexible: every time you focus on an object close up, a muscle in your eye changes the shape of your lens, enabling you to focus at any distance. As your lens gets stiffer with age, its ability to focus reduces. Initially it is possible to focus by holding things further away and using brighter lights, but eventually your eyes need some help to see things close up. The difficulty in focussing caused by presbyopia is different from short or long sightedness or astigmatism.

What should Noel do? Does he have to live with blur? Well, before he ends up kissing the wrong woman, he could visit his optometrist, who will complete an eye examination, check the health of his eyes and confirm if presbyopia is indeed the cause of Noel’s ailing sight. If it is presbyopia, he can be given a prescription for spectacles or contact lenses to correct his vision and enable him to see again. There are also some corrective surgery options, but by far most common solution is spectacles or contact lenses.

As many of Noel’s fellow artists have recognised, the right glasses can be an iconic style statement rather than something to be embarrassed about. Noel would be joining the likes of John Lennon, Jarvis Cocker and Johnny Depp, who have all proudly donned their spectacles. Indeed, Johnny has embraced presbyopia, redefining his image to include a pair of New York vintage-style full rimmed spectacles, now a much coveted design! With clever lenses, called multifocals, reading glasses look like any other spectacles.

If Noel is determined spectacles are not for him, then he should certainly talk to his optometrist about multifocal contact lenses. Worn in one or both eyes, these lenses are comfortable, enable you to see at all distances and are available in a daily disposable form, making them easy to use even at the end of a night’s partying.

So Noel, a message: you don’t need to live with blur; you can keep your eyesight (and your wife!) with a visit to your local optometrist.

March 13, 2015