We are often asked for advice on everyday things people can do to maintain their eye health.
Professor David Gartry provides a list of our top tips!
What can you do to maintain your eye health?
1. Eat a balanced diet
You may have heard the phrase “Carrots can make you see in the dark”. Well, carrots can help to maintain your eye health when eaten as part of a balanced diet, but they can’t give you superhuman vision! In fact, there are a range of vitamins, minerals, and pigments that play a vital role. We are often asked whether these nutrients can be obtained from supplements. The evidence for taking general supplements to promote eye health is conflicting – the general consensus is that you shouldn’t need to take them if you have a balanced diet and make healthy choices such as:
Eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables (5+) every day – fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins that help to maintain healthy cells and tissues, and ‘antioxidants’ that protect your eyes against ‘wear and tear’ damage from sunlight, air pollution, and other factors. In particular, fruits and vegetables that are rich in yellow pigments help to protect the lens inside your eye and an area at the back of your eye called the ‘macula’ which is prone to ‘wear and tear’ in older age. These include yellow and orange peppers, and green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, and broccoli.
Eating fish regularly – studies suggest that eating fish once a week can reduce the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of sight loss in older age. Oily fish, in particular, are also a good source of omega 3 which helps to improve tear quality and reduce dry eye.
Limiting sugar intake – medical conditions such as diabetes can lead to severe sight complications. Uncontrolled diabetes can cause leakage of blood and fluid from small blood vessels at the back of the eye, and increase the chances of developing cataract at a younger age.
2. Drink alcohol within recommended limits:
Excessive alcohol consumption has been linked to increased risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of sight loss in older age.
3. Gear up and protect your eyes
You should protect your eyes from everyday hazards including sunlight (UV light).
4. Stop smoking
Smokers are up to four times more likely to develop age-related macular degeneration (a leading cause of sight loss in older age), and have a greater chance of developing cataract at a younger age.
5. Take regular breaks
Give your eyes the rest they need. Take regular breaks from computer screens, tablets and smartphones to rest your eye muscles and allow the eye surface to rehydrate. You should also avoid using blue light screens late at night as it has been linked with poor sleep.
6. Have regular eye tests
An eye examination with an optometrist is more than a vision check! It’s easy to neglect your eyes when you’re not aware of an eye problem, but it’s really important to have your eyes examined for signs of poor general health (diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol) and early eye disease. Early detection and timely treatment prevents sight loss. A healthy young person should have an eye examination every two years but you may need to attend more frequently if you are in a high-risk group. For example, there is a strong family history of glaucoma.