You can start losing your sight for a number of reasons. Getting older, and a history of sight loss conditions in your family, can play a part. But the good news is there is a lot you can do you help keep your eyes healthy, and it will boost your general health too!
Have Regular Eye Tests
This is the most important thing you can do to look after your eyes. Whether or not you wear glasses, everyone should have an eye test every two years, or sooner if you become aware of a change in your eyes. An examination can detect signs of eye conditions such as glaucoma, which is treatable if caught early but may have no symptoms at that stage. It can also pick up other health conditions such as high blood pressure, or diabetes.
Feast Your Eyes
Studies show that what we eat can affect our vision. Certain foods are rich in anti-oxidants and nutrients which are great for your eyes.
Lutein and Zeaxanthin are anti-oxidants found in dark green leafy vegetables like kale and spinach. Research suggests they may help prevent age-related eye diseases such as macular degeneration and cataracts. Brightly coloured fruit and vegetables such as corn, carrots, orange sweet peppers and oranges are also good for your eyes.
Oily fish like salmon, tuna and mackerel is an excellent source of Omega 3 fatty acids, and research suggests eating one portion a week may help reduce your risk of developing age-related macular degeneration.
Eat blueberries and grapes to get your anthocyanins, which may help improve night vision.
Garlic, onions, shallots and capers are rich in sulphur, which is necessary for the production of glutathione, an important anti-oxidant needed to maintain health sight. Sulphur is also found in eggs.
Wholegrains and avocados are rich in zinc and Vitamin B. Deficiency in complex B vitamins may increase the risk of cataracts and retinopathy.
Staying active is good for your eyes as well as your general health. Exercise may help reduce high blood pressure, the risk of developing diabetes, and the risk of hardening / narrowing of the arteries, which can all be factors in sight loss.
Sunshine lifts our spirits, but it’s as important to protect your eyes from harmful UV rays as it is to wear suncreams. Never look directly at the sun. Wear sunglasses with the CE, UV 400 or British Standard marks to protect your eyes. Wraparound styles offer the most protection. A wide-brimmed hat will also help protect your eyes.
A build-up of exposure to UV rays over time can increase the risk of developing cataracts and macular degeneration.
Smoking and Alcohol
The link between smoking and sight loss is as strong as the link between smoking and lung cancer. Smoking doubles the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, the UK’s leading cause of blindness. It also increases the risk of developing cataracts.
Heavy alcohol consumption is also associated with an increased risk of developing age-related macular generation.
Children’s Eye Health
Most children will have their eyes tested early in primary school. Check with your health visitor to find out when in your area. But if you have any concerns about your child’s eye development you can have them referred for an eye test at any age. They don’t need to be able to read letters to have a sight test.
Even if they don’t need glasses at their first test, it’s important to have their eyes tested regularly. Children are entitled to a free NHS eye test every year until they are 16. Your child, and you, may not always realise they are having problems seeing, but if any of these are happening it may be worth having them checked out: struggling to recognise colours and shapes, regularly bumping into things, not showing any interest in reading, not progressing or not engaging at school, complaining about headaches or sitting very close to the TV.
Help them look after their eyes by encouraging them to eat a healthy and varied diet, and to spend time playing outdoors, as this has been shown to help reduce the risk of developing short-sightedness (myopia), which is increasing in children. Make sure they protect their eyes in bright sunlight with a wide brimmed hat and sunglasses. When they are very young, the lens at the front of their eye is very clear, so it can let more harmful UV rays in. In fact 80 per cent of our eyes’ exposure to UV occurs in childhood.