Always learning...

A customer of ours lives some miles away from the branch and told us that her friends had questioned why she travels so far to come to us when there are other opticians closer to where she lives. She said the reason is that we look after her, make her feel welcome and also she learns something new about her eyes every time she visits. We do try to educate our customers on their eyes and their glasses so its good to know that our efforts are noticed! :)

The difference is the service

We often get asked what makes Specs2U different to other opticians.  Rather than use our own words, here is just one example of what our customers say about us...

"I recently visited Specs2U at Ellesmere Port in order to assist my 84 year old mum who was fed up with her "High Street" varifocals.

When we arrived we were immediately given a warm welcome and a cup of tea. My Mum had her eye test which was very detailed and took over 45 minutes. The optician was very patient and explained to my Mum how the varifocals would work with her particular eye prescription.

Then my Mum was shown the selection of glasses and was helped by the staff to choose a pair of frames along with sunglasses.

This took another 30 minutes and at no time did my Mum feel she was being rushed.

The whole experience was very calm and you would certainly not get this sort of service anywhere else.

A couple of weeks later we went back and Phil very kindly fitted the glasses and explained to my Mum how they would help her vision and how to wear them.

Again, we were given a nice cup of tea!

My mum received a pair of varifocals and prescription sunglasses that she is delighted with and will have no hesitation in telling all her friends about the great service.

I would recommend Phil and Specs2U every time."

June J. Wirral


Google Doodle - Ferdinand Monoyer

Today's Google Doodle celebrates the work of Ferdinand Monoyer. You will probably never have heard of him (until today) but this French ophthalmologist is very important in the world of optics.

He invented the dioptre (the scale of measurement of visual acuity) based on how far away from something you need to be to see it clearly.

He also invested the eye chart that helps measure visual acuity - and which has been used around the world by billions of people. So when you next have an eye test, you'll now know who invented the chart they ask you to look at!

Going the extra mile - again...

The scenario?  Simple.  A lady loses her glasses in Chester and needs to replace them.  Simple, right?  Except she lost them on Saturday afternoon and needed a replacement for work on Monday morning.  And her prescription was out of date.   Rebuffed by all opticians in the area she came onto us.  The long and the short of it was that we arranged to get her prescription to the lab on Monday morning and hand-made the lenses to prescription. I then gave up half my day off to drive to Widnes with the frame, wait for the lenses to be fitted then on to Ellesmere Port so she could pick them up.  

The result  was she could go back to work on Monday afternoon (no-one else could sort her out for around 2 weeks).  Result is one happy new customer.

That is the kind of customer service we do.  


Dyslexic? Difficulty reading? There is an alternative to Irlens.

You may not know what Irlens even is, but parents with children who have difficulty reading, are borderline dyslexic or are dyslexic will have come across it. They may even have been recommended to an optician that provides Irlens testing.

Simply put, its a test to identify what colour tint (in either a spectacle lens or coloured overlay) helps children to read and / or use a computer.

The problem with Irlens is that the basic consultations are quite expensive (they can cost over £100 in some opticians), the glasses themselves are expensive as the tinting process is very costly - and the process is not supported by the NHS (so parents have no support if their child requires them). Given that childrens' prescriptions can and do change throughout their childhood, this can turn into a very expensive process.

Not only that, children can be very self-conscious and having to wear coloured lenses or use coloured overlays in class can be very stigmatising - but they (and their parents) feel they must do it as they have no other choice. Imagine the looks you would get if you wore pink sunglasses in work. Now imagine you're a child in a class having to do the same.

However, there is an alternative. Its called the Honeycomb lens. They look like ordinary lenses (i.e. they are perfectly clear) but inside the lens is a fine, honeycomb mesh. This mesh basically concentrates the light entering the eye and stops light from bouncing around inside the lens - thereby focusing a clearer, sharper image to the back of the eye.

For the user, this means that images are sharper and - more importantly - stops the image they are looking at from moving around (or light entering the eye from 'flickering'). By fixing the image to a point, this therefore allows dyslexic people to read more effectively - and can prevent the 'trigger' for migraine sufferers.

We have tried the Honeycomb lens on a number of people with dyslexia and / or those using Irlens lenses (or about to do so). The results have been eye-opening to say the least.

One student in Sheffield University found the Honeycomb performed just as well as his Irlens lenses and was so happy that they looked like normal glasses after 5 years of a purple tinted pair of glasses.

A 61 year old lady who has been dyslexic all her life found the lens made reading much easier and more comfortable - a situation she's never had before.

Two school girls who have differing degrees of dyslexia found that reading was much easier with the Honeycomb (even with no prescription). And key for them was the fact that the lenses look like normal spectacle lenses rather than pink or purple sunglasses.

We have a sample Honeycomb lens at every Specs2U branch and welcome people to come and try them before committing to the Irlens route. You may be pleasantly surprised.

The power of word of mouth recommendation

An interesting half-hour just passed. Had a call from the owner of a local garage who has booked in for an eye test with us. He'd been recommended to us by a customer of theirs who was on her way to us but was dropping her car into the garage first.

She arrived just as he was on the phone booking his appointment! It turns out we had been recommended to her by one of our existing customers after she'd struggled finding frames that suited her elsewhere.

She actually ended up with seven frames to choose from and had a short list of three (which she's sent photos of to her hubby for approval).

As she was leaving she told me how happy she was with the service, the time spent with her and the advice she was given. You can't beat word of mouth recommendation.

World Glaucoma Week

This week is World Glaucoma Week - to bring attention to what glaucoma is and how it affects you. Glaucoma results of a build up of pressure in the eye which results in the optic nerve being crushed - and hence your peripheral vision (initially) and then your forward vision (subsequently) being lost. Untreated, you will go blind. Caught early and it may only require drops in the eye to keep it under control.

How do you know you have it? . You won't. There is no pain, dull ache or any other physical symptom. Having a regular, thorough eye examination is the best way to protect yourself.

Any damage done is irrevocable so catching it early is very important.

If either of your parents have it, you are much more likely to get it (but not guaranteed to do so). Again, a regular eye examination is your best defence.

Sleep deprivation amongst children

This has been one of the big news stories today - the increasing numbers of children in the UK suffering from sleep deprivation.  Hospital attendances in England for children under 14 with sleep disorders have tripled in 10 years, according to NHS data analysed by BBC Panorama.

Ten times more prescriptions of common sleep medication melatonin have also been written for children and adults under 55 over the same period.

Poor sleep in children has been linked to a greater risk of obesity, lower immunity, and mental health issues.  It is also linked to lack of emotional control and poor school performance.

Many aspects of how we live today are thought to interfere with children's sleep, 

* Blue light emitted by smartphones and tablets is known to reduce the natural production of melatonin, the hormone that makes us feel sleepy

Mobile phones are now a staple of modern children's lives

Mobile phones are now a staple of modern children's lives

* Households where both parents work can be busier in the evenings, pushing bedtimes later

* Fizzy drinks high in sugar and caffeine have also made it harder for children to switch off at night

From an optical point of view, our solution would be a Bluefilter lens.  These block bluelight from mobile devices and computer screens and can come with our without prescription (so if the child has excellent eyesight they can still be provided with a pair).



Knight in shining armour

I've been called a lot of things in my time (mostly good!) and to add to the list is 'my knight in shining armour'.  One of my customers had knelt on her glasses when measuring for a carpet and bent the arm over 90 degrees further than it should be (imagine the arm pointing straight up in the air) as well as badly twisting the frame.  

Without them she can't work and was worried that the specs were beyond hope.  Five minutes of heat and gentle bending they are back to normal and she can go to work as normal - hence the 'knight' reference.  

What makes Specs2U so different?

I'm often asked what makes Specs2U so different compared to people's normal expectations of an opticians.

There are of course the basic differences.  

We operate from out-of-town locations.  This means that parking is available, free and right outside the branch.  Town centre locations rarely if ever have that benefit.

We make our own lenses - which means that you are essentially buying direct from the manufacturer.  This means much better value for money but also access to expertise on how lenses are made as well as probably the widest lens choice available in the UK.

We provide 30 minute in-depth eye examinations for all customers - which mans you have more time with the optometrist and they have more time with you.

But what really makes us different is the customer experience.  Our customers make much of the welcome they receive, the general friendly and helpful environment, the fact that we are on first name terms with most our customers.  Some have referred to us as their own special 'club', they bring our staff small gifts as an additional 'thank you' and also just pop in to say hello.  Not, you may agree, how most people would view their current optician.

Just recently one of our customers told us that she was recommended to us by two of her friends - none of them knew the others were already customers of ours - and all had said the same positive things about their experience.  That alone defines just how different Specs2U is.



Why really thorough eye tests are important

A good example as to why Specs2U insists on in-depth 30 minute eye tests for all our customers.  A lady came in for a routine eye test today.  Her pressures were fine.  The fields test for periphery vision was passed with flying colours.  But our optom thought there was something else not quite right (following a prolonged session with slit-lamp and Volk lens to check all around the inside of the eye). The digital photograph confirmed it. The very early signs of glaucoma were identified with the blood vessels around the optic nerve.  As a result the lady has a much earlier notice of this serious condition and by catching it so early it will hopefully mean faster treatment.  We do 30 minute tests as standard for just this reason.  

A good example as to why Specs2U insists on in-depth 30 minute eye tests for all our customers.  A lady came in for a routine eye test today.  Her pressures were fine.  The fields test for periphery vision was passed with flying colours.  But our optom thought there was something else not quite right (following a prolonged session with slit-lamp and Volk lens to check all around the inside of the eye). The digital photograph confirmed it. The very early signs of glaucoma were identified with the blood vessels around the optic nerve.  As a result the lady has a much earlier notice of this serious condition and by catching it so early it will hopefully mean faster treatment.  We do 30 minute tests as standard for just this reason.  

The 7 ways older people can look after their eyes


1. Have a regular sight tests at least every 2 years, that allows the optom to check for Diabetes, Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD), Cataracts, Multiple-Sclerosis, Blood Pressure issues, Cholesterol, Retinal Detachments and many other vascular related conditions.

Remember, that the eye is the only internal organ we can examine without an invasive procedure and it tells us a lot about the general health of the rest of the body.

2. Regular doses of Flax oil, Cod-liver oil and Evening Primrose oil helps stabilise the tear film and prevents “dry eye”. Always get advice from an optometrist or doctor though.

3. Wearing sunglasses or Transitions helps delay the onset of Cataracts and AMD by blocking UV light which damages the eye.

4. Ensure your current spectacles are up to date to prevent accidents and falls (and headaches and eye strain when reading). Also, ensure your spectacles are regularly maintained for comfort and to enable them to perform at their best.

5. Ensure spectacles or sunglasses are worn when gardening. Pruned branches and sharp leaves can pierce and damage the cornea.

6. Always have a spare pair of spectacles in the car or near to hand when on holiday or travelling to ensure you are able to get home safely.

7. Use the 20-20-20 rule when surfing the net on a computer or tablet. Rest your eyes every 20 minutes for 20 seconds by staring into the distance (i.e. at least 20 feet away). A natural green background is most relaxing for the eyes so looking into the garden is usually best.

Why don't the DVLA insist on regular eye tests?

You have to put your car through an MOT every year. You have to tax your car every year. You must insure your car every year. And you have to service your car every year. All these are compulsory legal requirements - you have no choice.

Yet there is no legislation or compulsory requirement stating that you should have your eyes tested to ensure that you are actually safe to drive that ton of metal around at speed.

You'd think there would be. After all, they ask you to read a number plate when you first take your test so the assumption must be that they take the ability to see clearly seriously.

The DVLA must assume that people will automatically take responsibility for their own road safety by getting their eyes tested every couple of years. But when was YOUR last eye test? Over 2 years ago? Three? More? Get safe on the road and get your eyes checked out.

What is a 'transition' lens?

What is a transition lens? Transition is actually the brand name of the main provider of photochromic or "adaptive" lenses which darken when exposed to UV light (such as when you walk outdoors during daylight hours).

When you are no longer exposed to the effects of UV,  the lenses return to their clear state.

Photochromic lenses should block 100% of harmful UVA and UVB rays but its worth checking with your optician to ensure that is the case.  Transition lenses do block 100% of both, which is why we recommend them.

The Nightmare Scenario - the importance of eye tests

Lady comes for eye test and finds she has a brain tumour We had a lady in just before Christmas for what she thought was a routine eye test.  It turned out that she'd lost her sight in her left eye as the blood supply to her optic nerve had been cut off.  We immediately referred her to the local hospital and followed up with phone calls to make sure the referral had been received and actioned.  The prognosis was not good for whatever was causing the issue - a stroke, MS, a tumour....until the scans were undertaken, we wouldn't know.

If your eyes hurt like your teeth hurt!

We often make the analogy between teeth and eyes (we're sad like that I suppose).  Its just that we often see a very different mindset where teeth and eyes are concerned.  Usually, teeth take precedence.  Most people see their dentist at least once a year - often every 6 months - yet see their optician once every 2 years at best (and often much longer than that). It could be because we've all experienced toothache and know how bad it can be.  Prevention is better than cure and that regular trip to the dentist will mean no terrible aches and gobbling painkillers until the dentist can see you.

With eyes, its different.  Few eye conditions actually hurt.  In most cases the damage is being done without you even being aware of it (glaucoma is one such insidious condition).  Often it is associated conditions like headaches and migraines that people are aware of - your eyes don't tend to give you much grief in the way of direct pain.

If your eyesight has failed slightly, the only indication is that what once was clear is now less clear, but that change of prescription has come on so slowly that people are often not aware of the lack of clarity until a life experience triggers it (usually not being able to see the ticker tape on Sky Sports!).  So people get on with their lives blithely unaware of failing eyesight, eye strain or worse.

Which takes us back to teeth.  The smallest hole in a molar can have you roaring like a bear and calling the dentist at 3 in the morning for relief.  But what if eyes worked the same way?  If your prescription was slightly out, you'd feel a constant stabbing pain in the back of your eye until you changed your glasses?  If your eye pressure went up slightly, a dull throbbing ache all over the eyeball until relieved?  If so, there would be a queue outside every opticians a mile long!

The point is that because we don't feel the same pain, we don't have the same priority.  Yet our eyes are so much more important than our teeth.  Just close your eyes for a second and do something you'd normally do - reach for the mouse, pick up your phone, type something... not easy if you can't see.  And as your eyes rarely let you know there may be a problem, then the only sure way is booking a regular eye test.


The importance of a detailed eye test.

The importance of a detailed, 30 minute eye test? A colleague from my BNI chapter came for what she thought was a routine eye test for a pair of reading glasses. Half an hour later she was booked in for an emergency referral at the local hospital.

The blood supply to the optic nerve had been blocked so she has lost the sight in her left eye and hadn't realised it (the wonder of our binocular vision - her right eye had taken over and she was none the wiser - although she had found her general vision to be impaired).

However, this could be a symptom of much more serious problems - she's already booked in for a CAT scan to investigate what has caused the problem and to address it straight away. The lady in question is happy for us to post this as a recommendation to others to get regular eye checks. She will keep us posted with updates but it shows that having a regular eye test is one of the best things you can do to protect your sight.

If you or someone you know hasn't had an eye test in recent years, get them booked in now!NHS Eyecare Voucher Values

Prism challenge

What an interesting chat. Two ladies popped in today - and after a long, hard journey trying to find us!. One had a prescription which didn't look too bad until we saw that she had 3+ prism in both eyes. The advice was to go for a small frame to keep the size of lens as small as possible and thinner, lighter lens to minimise the thickness at the side of the lens. We tried on about 20 different frames (she loved the choice available) and plumped for the first she tried on (a £20 frame).

At the end, her sister-in-law who'd driven them both here asked to book in for an eye test and they both commented on the quality of our service, the amount of information they'd been provided with and also the price. So impressed in fact that the first lady is going to come back for sunglasses, readers and to reglaze a couple of her old frames as well. smile emoticon