Latest Vision News Aug 2023


August 2023


What is it about a creative work such as a painting or piece of music that elicits our awe and admiration? Is it the thrill of being shown something new, something different, something the artist saw that we did not? As Pablo Picasso put it, “others have seen what is and asked why. I have seen what could be and asked why not”. The idea that some people see more possibilities than others is central to the concept of creativity.

Creativity is a multifaceted and awe-inspiring human trait that allows individuals to think outside the box, generate novel ideas, and bring forth original expressions. Creative people often possess a unique perspective on the world, perceiving and interpreting their surroundings in distinctive ways. By understanding these distinctive lenses, we can gain insights into the creative process and foster creativity in various aspects of life.


Research published in the Journal of Research in Personality suggests that creative people don’t just bring a different perspective to things, they genuinely see things differently to the average individual. They tend to have heightened perception and sensory sensitivity, enabling them to notice details and patterns that others may overlook. They have a remarkable ability to observe and absorb information from their environment. This keen perception allows them to notice the subtleties, textures, colours, and nuances of the world around them, providing a rich source of inspiration for their creative endeavours.

The findings of a study on binocular rivalry in which different images are presented to each eye simultaneously, report that the basic visual perception of creative people is fundamentally different to the visual experiences of the average person.

Furthermore, creative people often exhibit greater sensitivity to sensory stimuli, such as sounds, smells, tastes, and textures. They may be more attuned to the emotional impact of sensory experiences, allowing them to draw inspiration from a wide range of sensations. This heightened sensory awareness fuels their creative output and enhances their ability to create art forms.


Psychologists often measure creativity using divergent thinking tasks. These require an individual to generate as many uses as possible for mundane daily objects. People who can see numerous and diverse uses for an object are rated as more creative than people who can only think of a few common uses. The aspect of our personality that appears to drive our creativity is called openness to experience, or openness. Openness best predicts performance on divergent thinking tasks. The curiosity to examine things from all angles may lead people high in openness to see more than the average person, to discover complex possibilities lying dormant in familiar environments and to explore alternative solutions to problems, opening up a vast landscape of creative potential.

By embracing various viewpoints and considering alternative narratives, creative people can uncover hidden connections, identify novel approaches, and create fresh interpretations of the world.


Creative individuals tend to embrace ambiguity and complexity, seeing them as sources of inspiration rather than obstacles. They are comfortable with the inherent uncertainties and contradictions that exist in the world. Instead of seeking definitive answers, they enjoy the exploration of paradoxes and contradictions, recognising that they can lead to breakthrough insights and original ideas. They recognise that reality is multifaceted and interconnected, and they thrive on unravelling its complexity. This understanding allows them to create works that capture the depth and intricacy of human experiences.


Creative people possess a remarkable ability to perceive patterns and make connections between seemingly unrelated ideas, experiences, and concepts. They are skilled at recognising similarities, analogies, and metaphors, allowing them to bridge disparate domains and generate fresh insights.

Their ability to find hidden patterns and create novel connections often stems from a knowledge base acquired through extensive observation and exploration. By synthesising diverse information and experiences, creative individuals can uncover novel associations and generate ideas that transcend traditional boundaries.


Creative individuals approach the world with a sense of curiosity and wonder, maintaining a childlike fascination with the world around them. This innate curiosity fuels their exploration of different domains, disciplines, and cultures. They actively seek out novel experiences, engage in diverse activities, and immerse themselves in unfamiliar environments. This insatiable thirst for discovery enables them to gather a wealth of inspiration and broaden their creative perspectives.


We are constantly surrounded by sensory input. The mind has to choose what to focus on and filter out the rest of the stimuli. Creative people seem to have more flexibility and let through more information into consciousness than the average person.

In the well-known perceptual phenomenon inattentional blindness, some people are so focused concentrating on one thing that they completely fail to see something else going on in the background. In a study on inattentional blindness, it was found that more visual information breaks through into conscious perception for people high in openness or creativity, who see the things that others screen out.

Creative individuals possess a unique lens through which they perceive and interpret the world. Their heightened perception, divergent thinking, comfort with ambiguity, pattern recognition, and curiosity contribute to their distinct perspective. By understanding how creative people see the world differently, we can appreciate the richness and diversity of human creativity. Moreover, we can cultivate these qualities within ourselves, fostering creativity in various aspects of our lives. By embracing these unique lenses, we can unlock new possibilities, inspire innovation, and enrich our experiences in the world.

Many great artists and writers have said that creativity is simply the ability to connect the dots that others might never think to connect. In the words of Steve Jobs: “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.”


At some time or another, everyone has had the experience of red, itchy, watery eyes, the feeling that there is something in the eye. Is this an allergy, an infection, a chronic eye condition or something else? Different eye conditions may have similar symptoms, but similar symptoms may have different causes. To add to the confusion, different eye conditions can coexist and overlap in ways that facilitate or worsen each other. Defining the distinguishing causes and features and making an accurate diagnosis will lead to appropriate treatment.


An allergy is the overreaction of the body’s disease-fighting immune system to something in the environment that typically causes no problem in most people. When the allergen comes into contact with the antibodies attached to the mast cells in the eyes, the cells respond by releasing histamine and other substances to defeat the irritants. The histamine stimulates the eye’s blood flow, causing redness and watering as blood vessels dilate and leak. The histamine also stimulates the eye’s many nerve endings resulting in itching.

There are various types of eye allergies, the most common being seasonal allergic conjunctivitis, which, as the name implies, occurs at specific times of the year, typically spring, depending on the type of pollens in the air. Perennial allergic conjunctivitis occurs year-round and is generally a reaction to household allergens like dust mites or pet dander. Vernal keratoconjunctivitis is often associated with conditions such as asthma and eczema. While it can occur throughout the year, symptoms may worsen seasonally. Contact lens wearers may experience contact allergic conjunctivitis which results from irritation by the contact lenses or by the proteins from tears that bind to the surface of the lens.

Pain in the eye or diminished vision are symptoms not typical for allergies. The symptoms of eye allergies include redness, itching, watering and burning. The eyelids may be puffy and there may be sensitivity to light. Seasonal conjunctivitis is usually present in both eyes and may be accompanied by sneezing and nasal congestion. While there is often a clear discharge with seasonal and perennial conjunctivitis, the discharge with vernal and contact allergic conjunctivitis is generally thicker. Blurred vision may be one of the symptoms of contact allergic conjunctivitis. Giant papillary conjunctivitis is a more severe form of contact allergic conjunctivitis, in which fluid sacs or papules form in the upper lining of the inner eyelid, leading to discomfort and intolerance of the contact lenses.

Although not easy, seasonal and perennial conjunctivitis can be prevented or controlled to some extent by taking steps to avoid the allergic reaction triggers, such as keeping windows closed during high pollen periods and reducing exposure to dust mites. Over the counter eyedrops are commonly used for the relief of uncomfortable symptoms, but prolonged use of certain eyedrops may worsen the condition. Artificial tears, preferably preservative-free drops, can be used as often as needed to moisten and soothe the eyes. Antihistamine eyedrops, oral medications or prescription eyedrops or medications may be prescribed to manage allergies. In more severe cases, corticosteroid eyedrops are used to treat chronic allergy symptoms.


Conjunctivitis, or pink eye, is a common eye infection in children caused by a bacteria or virus. The conjunctiva is a thin layer of tissue that covers the whites of the eyes and insides of the eyelids. When this becomes inflamed or infected the eyes appear red. Other symptoms of pink eye include itchiness, excessive tearing and a feeling of something in the eyes, but the telltale sign is a thick discharge from the eyes and crusting on the eyelids upon waking up. While over the counter eye drops may relieve allergic redness, they cannot relieve conjunctivitis. Cold compresses and artificial tears may help to soothe discomfort.

Keratitis is inflammation or infection of the cornea, the clear outer layer on the coloured part of the eye. Improper contact lens care or wearing contact lenses for too long increases the risk of keratitis, but it can occur as a result of eye injury, a weakened immune system and certain eye diseases. Symptoms include redness and irritation of the eyes, eye pain, a feeling of something in the eye, sensitivity to light, blurred vision and discharge or watery eyes. Treatment of keratitis may require antibiotic or antiviral medication in the form of eye drops or tablets.

A fairly common eye infection caused by a bacteria, a stye is an infection in the eyelid, usually in an eyelash follicle or one of the oil glands of the eyelid. It may appear on the eyelash line or just inside the edge of the eyelid. Symptoms include a red painful lump and soreness or scratchiness on the eyelid or eyelash area. Most styes will clear on their own with the use of a warm compress several times a day and gently massaging the nodule.


Dry eye disease is a common condition that occurs when the tears are unable to provide adequate lubrication for the eyes. Tears can be inadequate and unstable for a number of reasons; for example, insufficient tears are produced, or the tears are of poor quality. This tear instability leads to inflammation and damage of the eye’s surface. Certain situations may make dry eyes worse, such as on an aeroplane or after prolonged use of a computer. Symptoms usually affect both eyes and include stinging or burning, watering, eye fatigue, sensitivity to light, redness, a scratchy sensation, discomfort wearing contact lenses and difficulty with night driving. Treatment for dry eyes is aimed at easing the discomfort. It can include lifestyle changes and preservative-free artificial tears.

When confronted by confusing, overlapping symptoms, it is always best to seek the help, expertise and experience of your optometrist.


The pupil is the black circular opening in the centre of the iris, the coloured part of the eye. It plays a crucial role in vision by regulating the amount of light that enters the eye. Beyond this primary function, it also acts as a window to our internal state, revealing important information about our emotional and cognitive processes. The pupils are controlled by the autonomic nervous system, which controls involuntary actions, such as heart rate, breathing, and digestion. The size of the pupil is controlled by two sets of muscles in the iris, one of which widens it, while the other constricts or narrows it.

The pupillary light reflex and the pupillary emotional reflex are both important for vision and for emotional expression. The pupillary light reflex helps to protect the eyes from damage, while the pupillary emotional reflex allows people to communicate their emotions to others. The pupillary response can be an involuntary reflex reaction to exposure to light or it may indicate interest in the subject of attention, uncertainty, indecision, conflict, errors, physical activity or increasing cognitive load or demand.


The primary function of the pupil is to regulate the amount of light entering the eye, which is essential for maintaining optimal vision in varying light conditions and protecting the delicate structures of the eye. The pupillary light reflex is a rapid automatic involuntary response of the pupils to changes in light. When light enters the eye, it stimulates the retina at the back of the eye, which sends a signal to the brain via the optic nerve. The brain then sends a signal to the muscles that control the pupils, causing them to constrict. This constriction helps to reduce the amount of light that enters the eye, protecting the retina from damage by bright light.

The pupil becomes wider in the dark and narrower in light. When narrow, the diameter is 2 to 4 millimeters. In the dark it will be the same at first, but will approach the maximum distance for a wide pupil, 3 to 8 mm. There is considerable variation in maximal pupil size in different age groups. After 25 years of age, the average pupil size decreases, though not at a steady rate, and the time it takes for the response to occur increases with age.


As well as regulating light, the pupil also responds to emotional and cognitive stimuli. The pupillary emotional reflex is the automatic response of the pupils to changes in emotions. It offers valuable insights into an individual’s mental and emotional state, allowing people to communicate their emotions to others without saying a word. Pupil dilation is even used by the FBI to detect deception and lying.

Studies have shown that emotional arousal, either positive or negative, can elicit changes in pupil size. When individuals experience strong emotions, whether due to excitement, fear, or surprise, the sympathetic nervous system is activated, resulting in pupil dilation. Conversely, during states of relaxation or positive emotional experiences, the parasympathetic nervous system dominates, leading to pupil constriction. It has been observed that there is a pupillary response when listening to enjoyable music. These reactions are thought to be caused by the release of hormones, such as adrenaline, that are associated with these emotions.

Pupil reflexes offer a non-invasive and objective measure of cognitive processes, helping researchers investigate brain activity and mental workload. When individuals engage in tasks that require higher cognitive load or mental exertion, such as solving complex problems or engaging in deep concentration, the pupil tends to dilate. This dilation may be related to the brain’s demand for extra sensory input. By monitoring changes in pupil size, researchers can study attention, memory, decision-making, and other cognitive functions, including mental exhaustion. This knowledge contributes to a deeper understanding of the neural mechanisms underlying human behaviour and cognition and has implications for optimising learning experiences.

Recent research suggests that baseline pupil size is closely related to individual differences in intelligence. The larger the pupils, the higher the intelligence, as measured by tests of reasoning, attention and memory.

Pupil reflexes can be influenced by social and emotional cues from others. It has been demonstrated that our pupils can dilate or constrict in response to the emotional expressions of the people around us. For example, when we encounter someone who displays fear or anger, our pupils tend to dilate, mirroring their emotional state. This phenomenon, known as emotional contagion, suggests that our pupils serve as a nonverbal communication tool, allowing us to connect and empathise with others on an emotional level.

The study of pupil reflexes and their relationship to emotional and cognitive processes has far-reaching implications in various fields. Pupil reflexes provide insights into an individual’s emotional state, which can be used in the diagnosis and treatment of mental health disorders. Additionally, pupil reflexes can be monitored during therapy sessions to assess emotional reactions, gauge treatment progress, and tailor interventions accordingly. They can also be used to diagnose certain medical conditions and neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, which may reveal abnormal pupillary reflexes. Pupillary reflexes can also be affected by certain medications, such as antidepressants and antipsychotics.

The pupil reflex is a remarkable phenomenon that extends beyond its role in regulating light levels. Changes in pupil size provide valuable insights into our internal experiences. Understanding and harnessing these reflexes can significantly contribute to fields such as psychology, neuroscience, and human-computer interaction.


Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a progressive condition, which is the leading cause of severe vision loss in adults over 50 years of age. It affects the macular, the central part of the retina which is responsible for sharp central vision and for seeing detail. Without central vision, it is difficult to recognise faces, read or drive. Because the vision loss is gradual, many people with AMD are unaware of it in the early stages and may notice the changes to their vision only once the disease is more advanced and irreversible vision loss has occurred. Early signs can be detected by an optometrist in a comprehensive eye examination before visual problems are experienced, and steps can be taken to slow the progression of the disease and the deterioration of the macula.

There are two main types of macular degeneration, wet and dry. Dry AMD is the more common and less severe form of the condition. The difference between them is determined by the cause of the macular distortion. With wet AMD, the function of the macula is impeded by the growth and leakage of abnormal blood vessels beneath the retina. Dry AMD is the result of aging and the thinning of the macula over time. These divergent causes result in different treatments and prognoses.


The specific symptoms and progression of AMD depend on the type of AMD as well as other individual health factors. People who have dry AMD may experience vision problems, but these are typically less severe and progress more slowly than those of people with wet AMD.

Early dry AMD usually shows no symptoms and signs of vision changes may go unnoticed. It is identified during a routine dilated eye examination. During the intermediate stage, some people still experience no symptoms, while others begin to experience minor blurriness in central vision and gradual difficulty seeing in low light. Later stage symptoms may include less sharp vision with some blank spots, and straight lines may be seen as wavy. Once dry AMD progresses further, the symptoms are similar to those of wet AMD.

Symptoms of wet AMD include blank spots, a blurry area in central vision, the appearance of colours being faded or less vivid, and straight lines seen as warped or wavy. Without treatment, most people with wet AMD will experience considerable and permanent vision loss. In about 10% of cases, dry AMD can become wet AMD. Since there is no way to predict this, it is critical that AMD is regularly monitored by an optometrist.

During dry AMD, drusen, clusters made up of fats and proteins, build up under the macula. Large drusen that interfere with central vision are a defining feature of AMD. Wet AMD happens when irregular blood vessels begin to grow under the macula. These blood vessels leak fluid into the retina and reduce vision. Over time, scarring within the retina may occur.

It is not known exactly why AMD develops, but there are certain associated factors which increase the risk. These include the presence of drusen, a family history of AMD, smoking, high blood pressure and obesity. Age is the most important of all of the AMD risk factors. People over the age of 55 are at a higher risk and that risk increases with time. During the aging process, changes occur to the retina that make AMD more likely to develop. Some studies suggest that AMD is more common among females, but more research is necessary to support this.


AMD is diagnosed by means of a comprehensive eye examination. People with dry AMD will exhibit changes in the cell layer underneath the retina, are likely have drusen deposits in the eye and may experience damage to the retina itself. People with wet AMD may have fluid buildup around the retina as well as waste deposits around the macula. There may be discoloration due to bleeding below the macula as well as evidence of bleeding within or near the macula.

To confirm the diagnosis, further testing may be indicated. This may include injecting dye that travels to the blood vessels of the eyes to determine whether there is leakage in the blood vessels, a sure sign of wet AMD.

The Amsler grid, a black grid with a black dot in the middle, is commonly used to test for blurry or blank spots in the field of vision. With AMD, the lines will appear wavy, distorted or blurred. Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is a test used to diagnose various eye conditions. A special light beam scans multiple layers of the eye’s tissues, generating high quality, cross-sectional images.

It is possible to have AMD alongside other eye conditions such as cataracts or glaucoma. Regular eye examinations are crucial so that any progressive eye condition can be detected early, treated and monitored over time to facilitate the most positive outcome.


When the condition is diagnosed early, some treatments may slow the progression of macular degeneration, but none of them can undo the vision damage.

With dry AMD, the tissue of the macula gradually becomes thin and stops working effectively. There is no cure for dry AMD, and any loss in central vision cannot be restored. However, there is a link between nutrition and the progression of dry AMD. Making dietary changes and taking nutritional supplements can prevent it from worsening. These nutrients include vitamins C and E, zinc, omega 3, lutein and zeaxanthin. Additionally, eating nutrient-rich foods, like dark, leafy greens, vegetables, and fatty fish, has been shown to help some people with dry AMD. Research is underway to find other dry AMD treatments, including drugs that target the part of the body’s immune system that attacks the retinal cells.

Less common, wet AMD occurs when fluids leak from newly formed blood vessels under the macula, causing rapid central vision loss. If detected early, wet AMD can be treated with intraocular injections or medications that block the abnormal growth of new blood vessels. The intermediate and advanced stages of wet AMD do not respond to dietary changes or supplements.

By maintaining a healthy lifestyle and having an optometrist check their eyes regularly, people with AMD can maximise their quality of life for years to come.

You have your grandmother’s red hair and your father’s creative talent. As well as appearance and personality traits being passed down through generations, higher risks for certain health conditions are also within our genetic code. Knowing where, or who, we come from can tell us a lot about what we may expect to come. Genetics play a vital role in certain eye diseases. Being aware of which of these diseases may be found in your family tree may help to reduce the risk or at least lead to early detection and management before they become serious, improving the long-term outcome.

Most eye diseases and conditions have multiple causes, but a large number of them are genetically linked. Some conditions do not pass directly from parents to offspring but may miss a generation and manifest later. Others may be the result of multiple genes or of the interplay between genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors.

The most common visual disorders are refractive errors which occur when the shape of the eye prevents light from being focused correctly on the retina. Research suggests that there is a significant risk of refractive errors in individuals whose parents have a refractive visual disorder, but that lifestyle factors have a role to play. The risk is higher if both parents have a refractive problem. Refractive disorders include myopia (shortsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness) and astigmatism. Strabismus (misalignment of the eyes) and amblyopia (“lazy eye”) have been found to have a genetic link.

Among children, more than 60% of cases in which blindness has occurred are caused by inherited eye diseases, such as congenital cataracts, congenital glaucoma or retinal degeneration. These may be present at birth or may develop during infancy or childhood.

Glaucoma, which results in irreversible damage to the optic nerve, is one of the leading causes of blindness throughout the world. Having a family history of glaucoma increases the risk of developing this vision-threatening condition by up to nine times. Sharing this family history with your optometrist will alert him to its early signs and help him to detect, monitor and even slow its progression.

Age-related macular degeneration, another sight-threatening condition which causes a gradual loss of central vision worsening over time, tends to run in families. About one in five people with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) has an affected family member. The earlier this is diagnosed and treated, the better the long-term outcome.

Genetics are partially responsible for the development of cataracts, the clouding of the lens of the eye. Research published recently found that up to 58% of age-related cataracts are due to genetics, while the rest of the cases are due to environmental factors and eye injuries.

Less common inherited eye disorders include albinism, choroideremia, corneal dystrophies, keratoconus, retinoblastoma, retinitis pigmentosa and colour vision deficiencies.

Unfortunately, many eye diseases have no early warning signs or symptoms. Vision loss can occur gradually, and the disease may have developed and be quite advanced before it is noticed. Knowing what you may be at risk for genetically can help guide your optometrist in the examination of your eyes, lead to early detection of the disease and help to track it over time.

There are many genetic health conditions which are not necessarily vision-related but can have an impact on vision. It is estimated that eye disease accompanies approximately one third of inherited systemic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Optometrists are often the first medical professionals to detect a health condition during a routine eye examination before symptoms of either the health condition or the eye disease are evident.

The best protection against serious hereditary eye conditions involves scheduling regular eye examinations and sharing your family’s health history with your optometrist. When eye disease is detected, controlled and treated early, the chances of permanent vision loss are significantly reduced.

While being aware of your genes is important, family history is not a guarantee of the same diagnosis in other family members. Environmental factors and lifestyle can play a role in maintaining visual health. A healthy diet, regular exercise, refraining from smoking and getting enough sleep have been shown to mitigate the risk of certain eye diseases. However, no matter how healthy our lifestyle, certain things are out of our control. Our genetics play a pivotal role in our overall health and our predisposition to certain medical disorders.


Can you believe it’s August already, and where does the time go etc etc? Instead of dwelling on the passage of time, let’s look at why this eighth month of the year is numerologically significant. Because cultures throughout history and throughout the world have recognised importance in the number eight, let’s take a trip and explore.

The number eight is significant in so many ways when it comes to mathematics – none of which make any sense to those of us who aren’t mathematicians. So, let’s move right along to science, where eight is regarded as a magic number. Again, the reason for this is highly complex and confusing. But magic is magic, so we’ll take it.

You might have wondered why the Beijing Olympics kicked off at 8:08:08pm on 8 August 2008. It’s because the number eight is considered to be lucky in Chinese and other Asian cultures. It’s also why a number plate containing an eight was recently sold for over half a million dollars in Hong Kong. It’s all because the word for eight sounds similar to the word for building wealth… which adds a linguistic angle to the numerological one.

Eight is a critical number in Ancient Egyptian mythology. Also, there were apparently eight people on Noah’s Ark in addition to all the animals (though it’s unclear whether the people marched onto the ark two by two).

And, in the Middle Ages, there were believed to have been eight unmoving stars in the sky. This notion symbolised the perfection of planetary energy. Speaking of perfection, all music is perfectly encompassed within the octave… and hey, the Beatles must’ve been onto something with Eight Days a Week.

The figure eight is considered to be perfect and endless and has a strong connection to the figure of infinity. (Just turn it on its side and you’ll see.) It’s the name of the knot that climbers use, and the most important ball on a pool table. (You know, the black one you’re not supposed to sink until you really have to sink it.)

Our solar system used to have nine planets, until Pluto got demoted in 2006. True story. Now there are considered to be eight planets orbiting the sun. (Shame, sorry Pluto…)

What’s more, eight is the atomic number of oxygen. It doesn’t get much more important than that.

And, while we’ve stayed away from anything heavily mathematical, it needs to be said that the number eight represents “overcoming” in Pythagorean numerology. Since we’re living in a place of frequent darkness, water shutdowns and earthquakes in a country that shouldn’t get earthquakes, the idea of overcoming doesn’t sound so bad.

So happy August. May you enjoy prosperous wealth and a positive sense of overcoming.

Whichever way it goes, at least we know it’s just a few weeks to go until Spring Day… which, by proud South African tradition, is the coldest day of the year.