It’s easy to take our eyes for granted until, of course, they fail us and our vision becomes impaired. It’s only then we are reminded how vital it is to take good care of our eyes.
Eye problems such as cataracts, CMV retinitis, protopsis, diabetic macular edema (DME) and macular degeneration often have no early symptoms and may even be painless, so you may not spot any change in your eyesight until the condition has become quite advanced. That’s why it’s so important to have regular professional eye examinations.
In addition to regular eye tests – which are free from the NHS for over 60s – there are several other things you can do to keep your eye health in check:
- Check your medications – Some steroid medicines, like those used to treat asthma, are known to increase the risk ocular hypertension, especially for people over 40.
- Regular exercise – Exercise has been shown to improve circulation and oxygen in the bloodstream, both of which are vital for good eye health, according to the NHS.
- Eat oily fish – Diet has a huge effect on eye health. Moorfield Eye Hospital recommends cold water fish high in omega-3 fatty acids such as tuna, mackerel and sardines. Research has shown that eating fish of this kind just once a week reduces the chances of age-related macular degeneration by up to 40%. They also help with dry eyes which reduces the risk of glaucoma.
- Blueberries and grapes – Moorfield Eye Hospital also recommends these tasty fruits as they contain anthocyanins which are thought to help with night vision.
- Green leafy vegetables – Kale and spinach in particular contain carotenoids lutein and zexanthin which are said to help prevent age-related macular degeneration and the formation of cataracts.
- Protect from UV – We all think to protect our skin from the sun but protecting our eyes is just as vital. Ophthalmic plastic surgeon Mr Raja Das-Bhaumik recommends wearing sunglasses with high UV protection, and avoiding cheap or fake brand sunglasses. And if you’re going to be near the water, remember to wear polarised lenses, which help prevent the glare.
- Reduce alcohol – Studies have shown that heavy drinking increases the risk of age-related macular degeneration. And while you drink, your eyes dilate much slower and affect your vision.
World Glaucoma Week is with us from 11 – 17 March and is a campaign to spread awareness of how important regular eye checks are. That way we can detect eye problems such as glaucoma in good time.
But it’s not just ocular hypertension that can be detected early. Conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes can also be picked up by your optician.
The moral of the story: get tested sooner rather than later as prevention is better than cure!