Real life: my optician experience

by James Langley, SSW Events Coordinator


I wanted to share an interesting visit I had to the opticians recently. I have congenital nystagmus and ocular albinism and have not had a specialist appointment since I was a child. I decided it was time for an up-to-date and in-depth diagnosis.

In the past, visiting a high street opticians has felt like being put through a check out. However, on the recommendation of a friend who has recently been registered severely sight impaired, I visited my local Vision Express and asked for an appointment with the optician she had recommended.

We started with eye scans and distance vision. The machines the optician used picked up an astigmatism. However, she told me this was due to the eye movement associated with nystagmus, and that the reading was not accurate. When looking at distance vision I was unsurprised to hear that lenses would have little to no effect. It was very refreshing to hear that she did not recommend glasses as they would be very big, very expensive and of little use!

photo of James Langley, Events Coordinator for SSW

We then moved on to near/reading vision. Again, I was unsurprised to hear that lenses would have minimal effect. Annoyingly, I had forgotten my magnifying spectacles, which I occasionally use for reading long documents. However, with smart phone accessibility I find myself using them less and less. The optician told me to pop them in next time I was passing and she would update my record.

A few days later I returned to show her my glasses. We tried a couple of near reading tests, first with the naked eye, then with my glasses, then with the lenses she thought might help. But no such luck.

For reference, I can normally read font 14 with the naked eye, 12 if I squint, font 12 with my glasses, 10 if I squint. 

I removed the temporary frame and put my own glasses back on. Here is where it gets interesting… I noticed that my glasses had a very wide field of view; you may know that the temporary frames and lenses they use give you almost tunnel vision.

I pointed this out and told her that I tend to tilt/turn my head when reading and that the temporary lenses blocked that part of my visual field. She widened the space between the two lenses and my vision improved so that I could read font 10 comfortably and 8 if I squinted.

It’s not a huge leap, I know, but for the sake of a minor adjustment to the lenses position I did experience an improvement. I thought this may help someone whose vision is just on the borderline and preventing them from doing something they really want to do.

My vision puts me just below the threshold to drive in the UK so I now wonder if a similar adjustment could be made with distance lenses. That might allow me to drive which would give me increased opportunities. 

I am 33 and can’t believe I haven’t thought about this before. Maybe I’m alone and this is common practice but the optician was just as surprised as me, so thought it worth sharing in case someone else can benefit from a quick trip to the opticians.


If you’d like to speak to James about his experience at the opticians you can contact him at the Centre or email Alternatively if you’d like advice about your eyesight, or maybe you’ve a story to share, we’d love to hear from you!