Here at Lightmaster, we work to create beautifully lit spaces for people to enjoy. We design the lighting in peoples homes specifically around the owners habits and pastimes and we try to “future-proof” our lighting for generations to come.
Recently we’ve been asked to look at a couple of projects being specifically designed for owners with poor eyesight, and it’s made us as a team realise the importance of sight and vision and the links to light. 3 of the Lightmaster team wear glasses or contact lenses all the time and 6 have glasses to wear when doing specific things like driving or reading. That’s 9 out of Lightmaster’s 12 employees with a known eyesight issue.
To understand how we see light, we need to understand our eyes.
Cornea: clear front window of the eye that transmits and focuses light into the eye.
Iris: coloured part of the eye that helps regulate the amount of light that enters
Pupil: dark aperture in the iris that determines how much light is let into the eye
Lens: transparent structure inside the eye that focuses light rays onto the retina
Retina: nerve layer that lines the back of the eye, senses light, and creates electrical impulses that travel through the optic nerve to the brain
Macula: small central area in the retina that contains special light-sensitive cells and allows us to see fine details clearly
Optic nerve: connects the eye to the brain and carries the electrical impulses formed by the retina to the visual cortex of the brain
Vitreous: clear, jelly-like substance that fills the middle of the eye
When working on the lighting for a home for someone with visual problems, it’s important to know the current level of sight as well as how the sight will deteriorate. For someone with Macular Degeneration, you need to make sure the whole space can be well lit as this condition effects the central vision and so they reply on their peripheral vision. Someone with Presbyopia need good task lighting as their ability to read small print and see close objects is effected – reading lights are essential, as is lighting on work surfaces. We usually want to reduce the amount of light on in the evenings, but someone with Night Blindness would find low-level lighting a nightmare to cope with. Glare is the enemy, even more so when lighting for someone with less than 20:20 vision. If you get a beam of light right in your eye when you already have a limited field of vision is not going to help! So shiny work surfaces need to be handed with care – LED tape positioned under the cabinets with a diffuser will create a soft glow without bouncing too much light off the surface. You can select pendants with diffusers or with glare guards.
Control is essential – it may be that some days, someone with Floaters ( tiny spots or specks that float across the field of vision) can see perfectly well, but other days they need a dimmer environment. Likewise with Macular Degeneration – the light levels can alter a person’s vision dramatically.
Regular eye tests are crucial for everyone, not just people with a history of eye troubles. Eye tests can show the early stages of many different eye problems.
Age is a factor with eye health – one of the Lightmaster team was diagnosed with Amblyopia (a lazy eye) at just 2 years old – conditions such as these need to be treated early to avoid long lasting sight problems. They had to wear a patch over their good eye to force their lazy eye to work harder for just over 4 months and now, at the age of 26 they do not need any glasses. Their right eye is still not 100% but because of an early diagnosis their ophthalmologist was able to give them the best possible chance at strong sight.
At the other end of the spectrum, Cataracts are an eye problem which mostly occurs in older people. They are the result of changes in the structure of the lens over time.
Floaters – These are tiny spots or specks that float across the field of vision. Most people notice them in well-lit rooms or outdoors on a bright day. Floaters are often considered normal, but can sometimes indicate a more serious eye problem. These include conditions such as a retinal detachment, especially if floaters are accompanied by light flashes, or any reduction in your field of vision, like a curtain falling over the eye.
Cataracts – Cataracts are cloudy areas that develop within the eye lens. Since the lens in a healthy eye is clear like a camera lens, light has no problem passing through the lens to the back of the eye to the retina where images are processed. When a cataract is present, the light cannot get through the lens as easily and, as a result, vision can be impaired. Cataracts often form slowly, causing no pain, redness or tearing in the eye. Some stay small and do not alter eyesight. If they become large or thick and affect vision, cataracts can usually be treated with surgery to replace the lens.
Presbyopia – This is the loss of the ability to see close objects or small print clearly. It is a normal process that happens slowly over a lifetime, but you may not notice any change until after age 40. Presbyopia is often corrected with reading glasses. Bifocal glasses permit the wearer to see objects clearly, both near and distant.
Night blindness – Difficulty seeing in dim light – occurs when rod photoreceptor cells begin to deteriorate. Rods work best in low light. There are many different forms of night blindness, but it may be linked to liver disorder, vitamin A deficiency, inherited disease of the retina, such as retinitis pigmentosa.
Macular degeneration – AMD affects your central vision, meaning if you were looking at a photograph, you would not be able to see the middle of the picture clearly but could still see the edges (preserved peripheral vision) shown above. If you are over 65, macular degeneration may already affect your central vision — the vision you need for reading and close work like sewing. The disorder occurs in two forms, dry and wet. The less common wet form of AMD requires immediate medical attention. Any delay in treatment may result in loss of your central vision.
A similar condition to Macular degeneration, but much less common and with no current treatment, is Macular dystrophy – a rare genetic eye disorder that causes vision loss. Macular dystrophy affects the back of your eye, or retina. It leads to cell damage in an area called the macula, which controls how you see what’s out in front of you. When it happens, you have trouble seeing straight ahead. This makes it tough to read, drive, or do other daily activities that require you to look straight ahead. It’s caused by a pigment that builds up in the macula’s cells. Over time, this substance can damage cells that play a key role in clear central vision. Your sight gets blurry or warped. But your side, or peripheral, vision isn’t harmed. So you won’t be totally blind.
While we are promoting National Eye Health Week, we also want to support our work with Guide Dogs. Maybe you’re lucky enough to have perfect vision – imagine being totally reliant on a partner or a dog to live your life. We’re going to be visiting our local Guide Dog center in November to learn more about the vital work their doing to train dogs to become invaluable support for a blind person.
We’re currently sponsoring a puppy called Bolt!