50% of sight loss could be avoided, so how can we keep our eyes healthy?
Although most of us expect our eyesight to gradually deteriorate as we age, with a large percentage of us needing glasses or contact lenses at some point in our lives, we nonetheless tend to take good vision for granted – albeit if that means we need glasses or contacts – until we suffer a dreaded eye infection or, even worse, permanent eye damage. We often forget how important it is to keep our eyes healthy and our vision in tip-top shape.
A study in 2018 found that just over 14 million people have not had a vision test in the previous two years and that at least half of sight loss in the UK is avoidable. One suspects that an even greater percentage of people have missed their two-year check-ups over the last couple of years because of the pandemic! And yet in another survey, sight was voted as the most important sense.
Those statistics seem rather incongruous, don’t they? If sight is our most important sense, we certainly should be having regular eye tests. We may think our eyesight is perfectly fine, but eye examinations can detect certain eye conditions such as cataracts, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration, which could lead to sight loss
Keeping your eyes healthy and functioning well is not difficult. Clearly having regular eye tests is essential but, in this post, we’ll look at a few other ways to help keep our eyes healthy and our vision in tip-top shape.
Protect your eyes from physical damage
This may be obvious but making a conscious effort to protect your eyes is the best way to keep them healthy. Analyse your daily routine and try to identify areas where your eyes may be feeling strained or at risk of being damaged.
At home, perhaps you are decorating or cleaning with strong substances that could damage your eyesight. Don’t mix cleaning products: ammonia and bleach, for example, can be a deadly combination. If you are cleaning in a confined space, ensure you have adequate ventilation.
Gardening is excellent for our physical and mental wellbeing, but there can be dangers lurking, too! If you are pruning, it’s very easy to bend forward and scratch your eye on a twig. And if you use garden canes to support your veg and flowers, use brightly coloured cane toppers to reduce the risk. When working in the garden, it’s always a good idea to wear glasses of some description, even sunglasses.
Around 20,000 eye injuries a year are caused by DIY accidents according to the Eyecare Trust, so if you are working with power tools or doing anything that is likely to result in debris flying around, wear proper safety goggles!
Similarly, if you work in an environment where you are subjected to any risk that could cause damage to your eyes, it is your employer’s responsibility for ensuring you have the correct PPE like safety glasses to keep your eyes clean and free of dirt and other debris.
Eating a well-balanced and healthy diet can also help keep our eyes healthy.
Leafy green vegetables contain two of the best antioxidants for the eyes: lutein and zeaxanthin.
Carrots, sweet potatoes, apricots, broccoli, grapefruit, onions, spinach & plums are full of beta-carotene (a good source for Vitamin A), which promotes retina health.
Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines all contain high levels of omega-3, an essential fatty acid that stimulates eye function.
Citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons and grapefruits all boast high levels of vitamin C, an antioxidant that helps the eyes function optimally. All these nutrients can help lower your chances of getting macular degeneration and cataracts.
Eggs contain zeaxanthin, lutein, and zinc, which can help to protect your eyes against macular degeneration.
And ensure you stay hydrated with water, 100% fruit juices & non-caffeinated herbal teas to help reduce irritation from dry eyes and to keep your immune system healthy and strong.
Limiting fast food and convenience meals is also recommended as these can contain high levels of salt, fats, and additives, which can increase blood pressure and restrict blood flow to your eyes.
Curb your addiction
Unfortunately, those who smoke are at a higher risk of experiencing eye-related diseases, like age-related macular degeneration (AMD). This affects the retina and causes cataracts and blurry vision.
Not only does the act of smoking harm your health, but the chemicals found in cigarettes can also cause uveitis – a harmful condition that damages the retina and iris.
The best thing you can do to improve your eyesight is to stop smoking entirely. However, any reduction in smoking is still beneficial.
If you are a contact lens wearer, keeping your lenses clean and germ-free is also paramount to maintaining healthy eyes.
Ensuring that you are cleansing your contacts thoroughly, changing the solution and not wearing them while you sleep are just some tips. However, if you feel discomfort or irritation with your contact lenses, contact your eye doctor or optician.
Also consider eye make-up, particularly mascara, because germs thrive in liquid make-up products. Experts recommend replacing mascara at least every three months to avoid the build-up of bacteria.
Relax your eyes
Many people nowadays spend excessive amounts of time looking at screens, whether that is a phone, tablet, laptop, desktop, smartwatch, or television.
Experts suggest taking frequent short breaks is the most beneficial approach, say 5-10 minutes every hour, for example.
As well as avoiding eye strain, taking regular short breaks away from the screen is also good for your posture and general physical wellbeing.
Plenty of fresh air
The corneas of our eyes get oxygen directly from the air, so fresh air in an unpolluted environment if possible is essential. Even in quite built-up areas, they are normally lovely natural areas just a short walk away.
Although our eyes need protection from strong sunshine, do remember that they do need fresh air too!