No matter what your level of vision, it is important to look after your eye health and protect whatever sight you do have. There are a number of factors that can exacerbate or contribute to certain conditions, so it is important to be aware of them. The list below explains what you can do to take care of your eyes.
1. Have Regular Eye Tests
It is recommended that people have an eye test every two years. A regular eye test can identify any early indications of diseases, some of which are treatable if caught early. It is important to maximise any useful vision you have by wearing the best possible prescription, your optometrist can help you with this.
A regular eye test can identify any early indications of diseases such as cataract, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration. An eye test can also identify other problems such as diabetes and high blood pressure for which the optometrist can refer you back to a GP.
2. Don’t Smoke
We all know that smoking is bad for our health, but did you know that smoking can damage your eyes? Your eye is a complex organ that needs oxygen to survive; smoking reduces the amount of oxygen in your bloodstream, so less oxygen reaches the eye. This causes oxidative stress and damages the retina and also causes cell death to retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) cells. Smoking is a risk factor for developing age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy. Stopping smoking can stop or reverse damage to the eyes, depending on the severity of the condition. Passive or second-hand smoke also causes damage to the eye and should be avoided. You can find information about how to quit smoking at www.quit.ie.
3. Eat the Right Food
Some foods can help protect against certain eye conditions; like cataracts and age-related macular degeneration due to the specific nutrients they contain. These nutrients are called lutein or zeaxanthin, and are found in many fruits and vegetables including mango, squash, broccoli, green beans, and spinach.
4. Wear Sunglasses
Ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun’s rays can cause damage to your eyes. To reduce risks always wear sunglasses when in the sun. Check your shades have a UV factor rating and block 100 per cent of UV rays. Your sunglasses should carry the CE mark, which indicates that they meet European safety standards. Close-fitting wraparound glasses will block more light and offer better protection. Be aware that UV rays can still cause damage when it is cloudy and overcast.
5. Clean your contact lenses
Only use commercially prepared solutions for contact lens care and never use tap or distilled water, or saliva. If you don’t stick to a strict cleansing routine your eyes can become infected and you risk corneal disease, or even the loss of an eye. You should never borrow or use anybody else’s contacts and never sleep in your contacts unless advised you can do so by the optometrist.
6. Wear safety glasses
Cleaning, DIY or gardening can be hazardous to your eyes as chemicals, garden debris, or nails and splinters can all cause injury. Consider wearing safety goggles.
7. Know your family eye history
Many conditions causing sight loss are hereditary so it is important to know your family history.
8. Take care with cosmetics
Be careful when using eye make up remover or any other cream around your eyes. Also, close your eyes or turn away when spraying cosmetics like perfume or hairspray.
9. Know your First Aid
Never guess about the severity of an eye injury. Seek medical attention as soon as possible following an injury, particularly if you have pain in the eye, blurred vision, or loss of vision.
10. Take regular screen breaks
If you use a computer, take frequent breaks from your screen – at least one an hour. Resting your eyes can avoid headaches, eyestrain, soreness and double vision.
11. If you have diabetes………
Diabetic retinopathy is a common complication of diabetes, it may not have any symptoms or may not affect sight in the early stages but, as the condition progresses, eventually the sight will be affected. When the condition is caught early, treatment is effective at reducing or preventing damage to sight. If you have diabetes, it is important to have regular eye examinations and keep an eye on your vision. You should also ensure you are registered with Diabetic RetinaScreen – The National Diabetic Retinal Screening Programme, full details about the programme are available at www.diabeticretinascreen.ie.