Our eyesight is a precious thing. Deterioration in our vision is not always noticeable until the damage done is irreversible.
Nor are eye strain and ageing the only factors in our sight getting worse. Medical conditions like diabetes and glaucoma pose some of the biggest threats to eyesight.
That’s why experts advise that looking after your eyes should be part and parcel of your general health routines. Regular check ups, a healthy lifestyle, not ignoring it if you suspect something is wrong and avoiding known risk factors all play a part in protecting your eyesight long term.
Here are some top tips from the professionals for boosting your eye health.
Keep up with regular eye tests
When it comes to looking after your eyes long term, there really is no substitute for regular eye tests. The recommendation is to take a test at least once every two years, although this may increase if you are older or you have a history of issues with your eyesight. Always follow your optician’s advice.
The reason eye tests are so important is because they don’t just look at things like short or long sightedness which might affect your need to wear glasses or contact lenses. During an eye test, you will also be screened for several conditions that affect your eyes, including glaucoma – one of the leading causes of blindness amongst the over-60s which can irreversibly damage your optic nerve without any symptoms.
If getting to the opticians is an issue for you, you can now arrange free NHS eye tests at home with a visit from a qualified optician. This service is available to anyone aged 60 or over, anyone younger who is registered blind or partially sighted, or anyone who is diagnosed with or at risk from diabetes and glaucoma. Find out more about home eye tests in Warwickshire.
Stick to a healthy diet
We’ve mentioned diabetes above. Diabetes is a major risk factor for sight loss because imbalances in blood sugar can lead to damage to the retina. Many diabetics first notice changes such as their vision becoming blurred. With prompt intervention, these symptoms can be controlled. But it is vital that measures taken to protect your eyes are part of a wider approach to managing diabetes.
Diet is critical. A healthy, balanced diet low in processed carbohydrates plays a central role in helping to regulate blood sugar levels, therefore minimising the risk of retina damage. Obesity is also a major risk factor for Type 2 diabetes, so any action you can take to lose weight, such as altering your diet and increasing the amount of exercise you take, will also help to protect your eyes.
These days we all know about the many negative effects smoking has on our health. But one of the lesser known health risks associated with smoking is the fact that it can damage our eyesight.
Research has shown that smoking doubles the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The macula is a specific part of your retina that controls your vision when you look directly at an object. AMD can make it difficult to focus or even lead to ‘blank’ patches in the centre of your vision. There are few treatment options for advanced AMD.
As well as AMD, smoking is linked to increased risk of cataracts and can also make retinal damage associated with diabetes worse.
Drink plenty of water
Another issue smoking or exposure to other people’s smoke can cause is dry eye syndrome. This is a condition where your eyes don’t produce enough fluids (tears, to you and me), leading to sore, irritable eyes that you are tempted to rub all the time. People who wear contact lenses also commonly complain of dry eye syndrome.
A very simple solution for avoiding the worst effects of dry eyes is to drink plenty. The better hydrated you are, the more fluids your body has available to produce tears. Remember, ‘wet’ eyes are actually a natural defence against foreign bodies getting into and damaging our eyes, so it makes sense to back up this important function by drinking plenty.
If dry eyes are still an issue even though you are keeping well hydrated, eye drops can help to supplement your natural defences. People who wear contact lenses often turn to eye drops to help keep their eyes moist.
Protect your eyes from the sun
Finally, if you are out and about in bright sunshine for any length of time, it is important to protect your eyes from the harmful effects of UV radiation by wearing sunglasses. The risks of skin cancer from overexposure to sunlight have been the focus of decades of public health campaigns, and we all know about covering up and wearing plenty of high-factor sunscreen if we are spending time in the sun.
But UV radiation from the sun can have an equally damaging impact on our eyes. If you have a prescription for glasses, speak to your optician about getting a sunglasses prescription to go with it. Or if you choose to buy a non-prescription pair off the shelf, check the label to make sure it conforms with British Standard BS EN ISO 12312-1 – the industry standard for certified UV protection.