It’s easy enough to pay attention to the health of our bodies but how often have you considered the health of your eyes?
Our sight is so important. We can often take it for granted, but the gift of sight really does open up the world to us— when you think about it, it’s actually the most important way that we experience the world around us.
That means it makes sense to keep them in a good condition. Looking after your eyes isn’t as complicated or time-consuming as you might think. Here are our top tips for keeping your eyes healthy and your vision protected.
1. Be aware of your family’s eye health history
Eye conditions can often run in your family. If your parents or grandparents suffer with a particular eye condition like Glaucoma or Astigmatism then your risk of developing that same condition could be increased.
Being aware of whether you have a family history of an eye condition can help you to know what symptoms to look out for, reducing your risk of permanent vision damage. It makes sense to let your optician know during your eye test if several people in your family have suffered with the same eye condition.
2. Have a healthy diet and lifestyle
Following a healthy diet is also important when it comes to keeping your eyes in good condition. This is because the many vitamins and minerals that we get from following a healthy, varied diet play an important part in keeping our eyes healthy and working properly.
Eating fish high in Omega-3, like salmon, tuna and mackerel, is believed to reduce the risk of developing dry eyes as you get older.
Leafy green vegetables such as spinach and kale are high in a vitamin called lutein which is believed to reduce your risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
If you’re overweight, the health of your eyes can be affected. Obesity can raise your risk of developing several serious eye conditions, including cataracts, diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration (also known as ‘AMD’). If you are obese, taking steps to reduce your weight can help to improve the health of your eyes and protect your vision in the long term.
Taking regular exercise will help you maintain a healthy weight, in turn helping you to reduce your risk of conditions that can be caused by obesity, like cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
3. Stop smoking
It’s not just your lungs that are damaged by smoking— your eyes can also be affected by smoking too.
According to the RNIB, research has shown that smoking can increase the presence of types of harmful particles known as ‘free radicals’. These particles can speed up the ageing process and affect the body’s ability to absorb beneficial vitamins and minerals from the food that we eat. Many of these vitamins and minerals, such as zinc and lutein, play an integral part in maintaining healthy vision.
According to the NHS, smokers are much more likely to develop eye conditions like age-related macular degeneration than non-smokers. Many studies have shown a link between smoking and cataracts. This means it’s even more important top stop smoking if you want to protect your eyesight as you get older.
4. Limit your alcohol intake
As well as damaging your overall health, drinking too much alcohol can also damage your eyes and vision in the long term. On the surface, too much alcohol can affect the appearance of your eyes, from contributing to dark circles under your eyes to causing the whites of your eyes to turn yellow.
Alcohol will raise your risk of cataracts and age related macular degeneration, as well as affecting the performance of your pupils, slowing their reaction time to light levels and reducing your ability to see different shades of colours.
According to NHS guidelines, the recommended weekly allowance of alcohol is 14 units for both men and women. To put this in perspective, one unit is the equivalent of a single measure of spirits, a half-pint of beer or a small glass of wine.
5. Be careful of harmful sun rays
We all know that too much sun can damage your skin but did you know that it can also damage your eyes?
Sunlight is contains a type of invisible radiation called ‘ultraviolet’ (or ‘UV’) light. Being exposed to too much ultraviolet light can seriously damage your eyes and in some cases might even cause lasting blindness and damage. For this reason, looking directly at the sun without any eye protection on can cause serious damage to your eyes.
As a result it’s important to protect your eyes with sunglasses whenever it’s sunny— this includes even in the winter, when it’s cold.
Everyday occasions when you might need to wear sunglasses include when you’re driving, walking outdoors or playing sports.
6. Look after your eyes at work and at home
At work we can often spend up to eight hours of our day staring at a computer screen. Combine this with office air conditioning systems and harsh strip-lights and your eyes are presented with the very real risk of eyestrain.
If you find yourself working in front of a screen for a long period of time remember to take regular breaks.
A good tip is to follow the 20|20 rule— every 20 minutes take a 20 second break and look at something 20 feet away. This can help to reduce the risk of you developing eyestrain.
Believe it or not, but thanks to the 2002 Health and Safety Act, your employer is legally required to provide free eye tests for you on a regular basis.
The act states that if you work with display screen equipment, such as computer screens or laptops, your employer must provide an eye test for you, if you request one. If that test shows that you need glasses to carry out your work using the screen, then your employer must pay for a basic pair of frames and lenses.
As with work, if you spend a lot of time staring at an electronic screen at home— whether it’s watching TV, using a laptop or playing video games— it’s important to take regular rest breaks to keep your eyes feeling comfortable.
If your eyes are feeling tired and irritated or you’re experiencing headaches, make sure you take a break. Again, make good use of the 20|20 rule.
Another tip to look after your eyes is to minimize the amount of time that you spend using electronic screens before sleep. This is because they give off ‘blue light’ — a type of invisible light radiation that can disrupt your body clock, mess with your sleeping pattern and even cause long term damage to your eyes.
7. Regular eye tests
When we get older, it’s natural that for most of us, our eyesight will begin to worsen. This can be because of a condition called presbyopia— the progressive worsening of your vision caused by old age.
Whilst nothing can prevent presbyopia from happening for certain, staying on top of your eye health with regular eye tests will help you to prevent serious disruption to your sight and allow you to treat the condition before it becomes a noticeable problem.
8. Take vitamin supplements
Taking vitamin supplements can be useful when it comes to keeping your eyes in a good condition— especially if your diet is lacking in particular nutrients that help your eyes and vision stay healthy.
Vitamin A is perhaps the most well-known supplement for potentially improving your vision.
Vitamin E is also thought to be good for your general eye health, thanks to the presence of antioxidants that could reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. Vitamin C could provide the same benefits.
Omega 3,6,9 is well known and recommended for combatting dry eyes.
9. Follow advice and guidelines if you wear contact lenses
It sounds obvious, but following the recommended guidelines and advice about how to wear your contact lenses will go a long way to keeping your eyes in good health.
Some key things to bear in mind when it comes to contact lenses and healthy eyes include; following good hygiene practices, like cleaning your contact lenses properly and washing your hands before handling them; inserting and removing them carefully into your eye and never wearing them for longer than recommended. You can read our full guide of do’s and don’ts for wearing contact lenses here.
10. Exercise your eyes
Like any other part of your body, your eye muscles need exercise to stay in good shape and condition! Some exercises could help to improve the overall performance of the muscles around your eyes and keep your vision in good health. Try tracing a figure-of-8 pattern with your eyes or try switching quickly between focusing on close objects and objects further away— doing so could help improve your focusing action.
Blinking is also a particularly useful mechanism for keeping your eyes healthy that we can often take for granted. The blinking action serves to lubricate your eye and remove dust, dirt and debris. Remembering to blink more often is a simple exercise that you can do to support the overall health of your eyes.
11. Visit your optician if you notice any changes
Symptoms and signs that there is something wrong with your eyes shouldn’t be ignored. If you notice any changes with your eyes, like excessive watering, itching, irritation or floaters (specks of white or black in your vision), it’s best to visit an optician for a professional opinion.
If you experience sudden vision loss, you should seek professional medical attention as soon as possible.
How to keep your eyes healthy
Following the advice and tips provided in this article will go some way in ensuring your eyes are as healthy as they can be.
However, it’s important to have regular eye tests and examinations every two years.
At Optical Express, we pride ourselves on delivering some of the most comprehensive eye examinations available in the UK and Ireland. To find out more, or to book your eye test today, please give one of our patient care team a call on 0808 273 2890 or send us a message here.