5 minutes with… Elizabeth Evans
Elizabeth Evans is an optometrist with more than 25 years of experience
Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name’s Elizabeth Evans and I am optometrist. I’ve been practising in the North East for 25 years. I worked at hospitals and then at various different independent practices in the North East, before purchasing the present practice in Prudhoe 20 years ago. I really wanted my own practice because you’re in the community, you’re building up relationships and you really feel like you’re looking after people, whereas if you go around working for different practices you never get that same level of continuity. So that’s really why I wanted to do that. Since then I’ve just been building that up, enjoying working with the public and getting more specialised too.
What services do you offer at Elizabeth Evans Opticians?
We’ve really invested in equipment recently. We already did, but after Covid we realised we really just want to offer the best service. People want us to spend time with them and to really give a through eye examination so we’ve invested heavily in equipment to see much further round the eye than we ever could before and into the deeper layers.
We do what is called an advanced eye examination and what you see is 82 percent of your retina, compared with say just 15 percent which you get with a traditional examination camera. It’s a huge amount more and it’s great because I can say to people that everything looks fine and be sure, not just that at least the bits I can see look okay. So now we can say we’ve fully looked at the whole of your eye and it’s just hugely reassuring for people.
When people come to us we don’t want just to see them once and then never again, we hope to be able to monitor them and if they have a condition keep on watching that, assessing them and giving reassurance for that as well.
Another thing we’ve introduced recently is that we’re the only practice in the North East who offer a new treatment for macular degeneration. That’s something which is available in London and we brought it up to the North East last year. This isn’t a cure but it is a treatment for macular degeneration and the research is showing that it does give an improvement in vision. So it’s something new that we’re doing here and it’s very exciting.
Tell us more about your special interest in macular degeneration.
Macular degeneration is a condition that tends to occur in the elderly and normally it is only the wet form that is treated. It doesn’t just affect your central vision, it also affects how you function with your vision so things in low contrast are affected. This means you can’t drive, shopping may be difficult, reading will be difficult and enjoying TV can be difficult as well, so you end up losing your independence.
The treatment is called photobiomodulation. Essentially it is light at the correct wavelength and intensity, aimed at the right place, and what that does is effectively increase tissue repair by reducing inflammation and edema, and improving the blood flow to different areas.
It’s not a cure and it’s relatively new within the eye but it has been used in other areas of the body (for example muscular-skeletal pain and osteoarthritis) and it has been used in dentistry for oral effects after radiotherapy for oral cancers, so there’s a lot of research in other areas of the body and what it can do. Also there are more and more studies and clinical trials coming out now to show that there is significant statistical evidence for improvement in vision to occur.
It’s very exciting to be able to offer somebody that. At the moment all that happens is people are told they’ve got macular degeneration and just to monitor the deterioration, which is a very negative approach and quite depressing for anybody who has got it. So to actually be able to offer anything for a start is good, but to be able to offer it to people on their doorstep is huge. We’ve had people in from Yorkshire, and the last lady I’ve had in had just come down from Peterhead to have the treatment so we are really offering something which is fabulous for the people in this area.
What makes you different from other opticians?
I think it’s the fact we build relationships with people and we really are just here to look after them. We don’t want you to just come in have an eye examination, buy a pair of glasses and leave, we want to look after the health of your eyes and monitor that.
Obviously we do also offer a very good service in terms of spectacles and frames, and in that side my staff are very experienced. What we really want you to do is have frames that are really comfortable but also really suit you. So when you leave here with your new glasses we want you to be inundated with compliments and feel great in your specs.
We offer a wide range of frames including designer labels, but we’re not a supermarket so we don’t let you self select because, just like if you went into a jean shop it would take you a long time to try on every pair of jeans and it would be exhausting, we don’t want that here. Me and my staff have been doing this for years and we’re all trained up so we select out frames that we know are going to suit you depending on your colouring, or your face shape and size, but also on your feedback. Whether you’re thinking you want something more subtle or more dramatic, we will obviously go with what your likes and your personality are.
You see lots of people walking around with frames that are too big for them, uncomfortable and just not making the best of their features. So we won’t let you just have any frame, we want you to feel great in your specs and for them to suit you well and we’ll give you really good advice on that. That’s what we really strive for and it’s a highly personalised service.
What are your plans for the future?
I want to get the fact that we do have this macular treatment out to as many people as I can because I just feel that it’s something that people need to be aware of. It’s obviously new to the area so we really want to try to get that information out so that people can choose whether they want to have the treatment or not.
What’s the best thing about your job?
I love coming to work so I’ve got no favourites . I just thoroughly enjoy the relationship with patients and that continuity of care. We just love looking after people.
What do you love most about living in the North East?
It’s just amazing. There’s a great variety of places to go. I love walking and with the coast and the countryside there are fabulous walks everywhere here.