Vision has a profound impact on quality of life. Luckily, as the health of your eyes is influenced by lifestyle factors like food choices and sun exposure, there are a number of easy steps you can take to provide your eyes with the best possible protection.
Scheduling an eye examination every one to two years is the most important part of the overall process. A developing eye condition often begins without pain or any other symptoms, so regular checks are necessary. A dilated eye exam can help identify eye diseases in their early stages when many can still be effectively treated.
A sight test will also identity whether you need to get glasses for the first time. If you already wear glasses or contact lenses, checking that your prescription is still correct can go a long way to protect against eye strain.
Pack your sunglasses
Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun increases the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts. The best way to avoid harmful effects from these rays is to make a habit of wearing sunglasses.
It’s essential that your sunglasses block out at least 99 percent of UV radiation. Buying your pair from an optometrist will ensure that they provide as much protection as possible. A wraparound design, in particular, will provide additional protection and polarised lenses can reduce glare.
Believe it or not, food choices play an important role in keeping up your eye health. Research has shown that particular nutrients can support this significantly. Consuming foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins C and E, lutein and zinc all deliver positive essentials. To up your intake of these nutrients, ensure that your diet includes plenty of fruit, green leafy vegetables and fish such as salmon and tuna.
Maintain a healthy weight
Another way in which your diet may affect your eye health relates to your weight. Being overweight or obese significantly increases your risk of diabetes, which can lead to eye disease. For instance, diabetes affects the blood vessels in the retina and is one of the leading causes of vision loss in adults.
Ditch the cigarettes
There is a long list of good reasons to give up smoking and protecting the health of your eyes is another to add to that list. Smoking increases the risk of age-related macular degeneration and cataracts, as well as potentially causing damage to the optic nerve.
It is never too late to enjoy the benefits of giving up smoking. Ditching the cigarettes at any age will reduce your risk of developing conditions which could endanger your sight.
There are many activities which may pose a significant risk to your eyes. These include sports which involve balls, racquets or flying objects, all of which could cause an injury to the eye. Sports goggles with polycarbonate lenses can provide effective protection, as can helmets with face masks.
Similarly, safety glasses should be worn at work or around the home, during activities which involve hazardous materials or the possibility of objects becoming airborne.
Take care of your contacts
Contact lenses can offer convenience but one of their disadvantages is that they increase the risk of infections. In particular, contact lens users are more likely to suffer from conjunctivitis or keratitis, an infection of the cornea which can be caused by viruses, fungi or bacteria.
To avoid trouble, make sure you wash your hands before you handle your contacts. Use a specialised cleaning solution every day and always take your contacts out before you go to sleep. Also, never wear them in the bath, shower or swimming pool and always follow the instructions provided.
It’s all in the genes
You may be able to gain a better idea of your risk of certain eye diseases if you are aware of the eye health of your family members, as many eye conditions or diseases are hereditary. If someone in your family has or does suffer from a particular condition, share this information with your specialist.
The 20-20-20 rule
Many of us spend long hours staring at computer screens. This can lead to dry eyes, headaches, blurred vision and even eyestrain. Resting your eyes from time to time can make a notable difference. The 20-20-20 rule is a good way to do this—it involves taking a 20 second break every 20 minutes and looking at something that is at least 20 feet (6 metres) away.
Ask for help
There are some eye symptoms that need to be treated immediately. Consult a doctor if you suddenly lose all or part of your vision, have a sudden increase in floaters combined with flashing lights, or experience pain in or around your eyes.
Prioritise your eye health today by booking an appointment for an eye examination at one of the NewVision Clinics on 1800 20 20 20.
Melinda Rollinson is a Melbourne-based freelance features and content writer with a background in health and law.