Eye Health 101: From Diet To Screen Damage

According to recent studies, two million British adults haven’t had an eye test in more than five years. While you might think there’s nothing wrong with your vision, increased screen time, UV exposure and a poor diet can take their toll. From how often you should see an optician to nutritional hacks, we asked two optical health experts how best to protect your eye health.

Get Tested

“Adults should visit an optician at least once every two years, but if you notice any changes to your vision, book in sooner. It’s normal to experience a range of eye health issues in your lifetime, and while many basic problems can go away over time, others, if not treated in a timely manner, can permanently change your vision. Sudden changes in sight and headaches should be checked out, and also notice your eyes in photos – if your pupils appear white, this should always be examined by your optician. Getting tested can also enable your optician to diagnose other health issues – for example, by examining blood vessels and nerve fibres in the eyes, this can be reflective of what’s happening throughout the body. The signs of conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol can sometimes occur without having any symptoms at all and can be picked up by your optician.” – Peena Govind, professional operations business partner at Vision Express

Know The Warning Signs

“Recent figures released by the IAPB (International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness) have revealed that eye-related health issues in the UK are set to reach epidemic proportions within just 30 years, yet as many as 50% of cases related to vision impairment could be avoided with better eye care. It’s always best to get any changes to your eyes or eyesight checked out – no matter how small or insignificant. Nonetheless, things you should never ignore include blurred vision, eye pain, burning, double vision, droopy eye lids and floaters with flashing lights. These could all be signs that something isn’t quite right. Redness and irritation are also early warning signs that your eyes could do with some TLC.” – Dr Andy Hepworth, optical lens specialist from Essilor.co.uk

Remember, Diet Matters

“For optimal eye health, look for foods rich in antioxidants, omega-3 fats, beta-carotene, vitamins A, C, E, lutein and zeaxanthin. For example, carrots are a great source of vitamin A and beta-carotene, which can help protect against eye infections and conditions such as nyctalopia or night blindness. Blueberries are also packed with antioxidants, which may reduce your risk of cataracts and glaucoma, while kale and spinach are rich sources of lutein and zeaxanthin, which can protect eye tissues from sunlight damage and reduce the risk of eye changes related to ageing. Also increase your intake of apricots – just one apricot has 13% of your daily vitamin A, and they are also rich in beta-carotene and lycopene, which help absorb harmful blue light to protect the retina. Sweet potatoes are also great for eye health – they are packed with beta-carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A, a nutrient that helps prevent dry eyes and night blindness.” – Andy 

Accept Genes Play A Part

“It’s important to know your family’s eye health history, as many eye problems are hereditary. However, age also plays a role in eye health. Generally, many people start to notice changes in their eyesight once they reach their forties – at this age, it’s common for people who’ve never worn glasses before to require them for reading. This is because the lens inside your eye becomes less flexible and loses its ability to change shape, making it trickier to focus on things that are close. As women reach the menopause, they may also notice their eyes becoming dryer due to hormonal changes, and from the age of 60, our contrast sensitivity can decrease, making it harder to drive at night or move between dark to bright spaces.” – Andy 

Stay Active

“Over the last decade, several studies have found a link between regular exercise and reducing the risk of eye diseases like cataracts, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration. While exercise may not directly affect your eyesight, it can affect other health issues like diabetes which can damage the blood vessels of the retina and lead to diabetic retinopathy. Similarly, high blood pressure can also lead to eye disease, and regular exercise can help prevent hypertension.” – Andy 

Up Your Omegas

“Foods rich in omega-3, such as oily fish, can reduce the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration by up to 40% as well as preventing dry eyes – a condition where the eyes don’t make enough tears, or your tears evaporate too quickly. If you don’t get enough omega-3 in your diet, consider taking a supplement.” – Peena 

Beware Of Bloodshot Eyes

“Having bloodshot eyes is a common condition that occurs when the blood vessels in your eyes rupture, giving the whites of your eyes a pink or reddish colour. While it may be down to something simple like a lack of sleep, it could also indicate an infection. If it doesn’t clear up within a couple of days, book in with your optician. Try to practice good eye hygiene at all times, which will prevent the risk of infection in the first place. Always wash your hands with antibacterial soap or sanitiser before touching your eyes; make sure to remove all eye makeup to prevent the clogging of your lid and lash glands; avoid wearing contact lenses for longer than the recommended time; and make sure to store your contact lenses in a clean case, washing your contacts before and after each use with solution.” – Peena 

Protect Against UV Damage

“Overexposure to UV and blue-violet light can have a negative impact on vision. UVA rays from the sun pass through your eye and onto the retina, leading to premature eye ageing. Blue-violet light has recently been identified as causing damage to retinal cells. To protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful rays, wear photochromic lenses (ask your optician for more information) or sunglasses, even on cloudy days. Corrective and non-prescription lenses can both be enhanced to filter out harmful light using lens coatings and embedded filtration systems. When buying sunglasses, it’s important to check they block 100% of UVA and UVB light, and that they carry the CE or British Standard marks of quality.” – Andy 

Be Screen Savvy

“Visual fatigue is increasingly common in the UK and is exasperated by looking at digital screens where the pixels constantly refresh, causing the eyes to constantly refocus. Eye strain can be reduced by following the 20-20-20 rule (take a break from screens every 20 minutes, focus on something 20 feet away for 20 seconds). Visual fatigue and eye strain can also be helped by using special lenses, designed to reduce and prevent eye strain by stopping the eyes from working so hard. Introducing lenses that are optimised for the work environment or lifestyle requirements can result in significant improvements in eye health.” – Andy 

Ditch Bad Habits

“Smoking and drinking can certainly have a detrimental effect on the health of your eyes. Smoking has been linked to an increased risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts. Smoking can also increase the risk of damage to your optic nerve. In extreme cases, long term effects of excessive alcohol can result in toxic amblyopia, which can cause permanent vision loss. Extreme alcohol consumption may eventually affect your vision through vitamin deficiency. This is because heavy drinking can affect how well your liver is able to absorb vitamins.” – Andy 
 
For more information, visit Essilor.co.uk and VisionExpress.com

 

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