Top tips for all the family
Nothing could be more important than looking after your family’s eye health so read on for some top tips on maintaining healthy eyes and vision…
Keep the family regular
The most important thing you can do to safeguard the eye health of your family is to ensure everyone has regular eye examinations at the recommended intervals. For adults, the recommended frequency is every two years – unless you notice a problem, in which case make an appointment sooner. You may also need examining more frequently if you have a medical condition, a family history of glaucoma or inherited disorder, or if recommended by your optometrist.
For children under the age of 16, the NHS recommends a regular eye examination at least once every two years. Eye exams for family members under 16 (and those under 19 years old in full-time education) are free under the NHS. If your child needs glasses, an NHS voucher will be issued to help with the cost. Remember, your little ones do not have to be able to read to have their eyes examined.
Eat well, see well
Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet has obvious benefits for the whole body – but did you know that ‘eye-friendly’ nutrients can be found in many fruits and vegetables? Kiwis, spinach and oranges are all good sources of vitamin C, which is a key antioxidant and vital for eliminating free radicals that may cause eye damage. Whole grains and avocados are rich in zinc and vitamin B, which can help guard against cataracts and retinopathy, while green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale are rich in carotenoids, especially lutein and zeaxanthin, which help protect the macula.
Fish is particularly eye-friendly because omega-3 fish oils help maintain healthy blood vessels inside the eye. Good sources of these fatty acids are cod, sardines, tuna and salmon. If you like eggs for breakfast these are rich in cysteine, sulfur, lecithin, amino acids and lutein. Sulfur may also help protect the lens of the eye from cataracts. So, stock up on eye-friendly foods and prepare a proper feast for your eyes.
You snooze, you lose
We don’t always feel like getting outdoors and exercising, but going for a family bike ride or a walk can do your eyes and vision the world of good. Recent research has suggested that children who spend more time outdoors are less likely to become myopic (short-sighted) or become more myopic.
Other theories suggest that increasing exposure to vitamin D can reduce eye growth, which can lead to myopia development and/or progression. Because myopia is most likely to occur in children between the ages of six and 13 years, there can be no greater incentive to ensure your kids spend at least some time outdoors every day – even in winter.
Regular exercise can also benefit your eyes and vision. A study in America showed that people who engaged in moderate physical exercise were 25 per cent less likely to develop glaucoma than people who were largely inactive. Other scientists found that people who exercised three times a week were less likely to develop age-related macular degeneration (AMD), one of the UK’s leading causes of sight loss, than people who didn’t exercise.
The advent of smartphones and hand-held devices has meant a significant change in the way we use our eyes. By constantly looking down and then up from our devices, for instance when we’re checking our social media whilst watching TV, we’re putting added stress on our eyes and vision. Some experts also believe that spending a lot of time focusing on nearby objects may increase your risk of developing myopia. However, the main worry is the development of tension headaches, dry eye and eye strain.
Because we blink less and our eyes converge when we stare at our devices, we increase our risk of developing dry eye. Common symptoms of dry eye include dryness, soreness, scratchiness, eye irritation, blurred vision, burning and even dilated blood vessels (red eyes) at later stages. So, a top tip for any social media addicts in the family is to follow the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes look away at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. And remember, it’s good to chat in person too!
Watch what you drink
Drinking so much that you get blurred vision is never a good idea, and you may be at a higher risk of developing an eye disease if you drink heavily. But did you know that the liver and the eyes are closely related? Blurry vision, myopia, floaters in the eyes, dry eyes, or colour blindness have been linked to liver blood deficiencies.
Maintaining a healthy liver, and reducing the likelihood of developing liver inflammation, isn’t just about watching your alcohol intake. Cutting down on caffeine, fizzy drinks and drinking eight to 10 glasses of water a day can all help maintain a healthy liver. And remember: if your diet includes a lot of caffeine or alcohol, or you don’t drink enough water, your eyes may be too dry for contact lens wear.
Stub it out
A stark warning for any smokers in the family is that smoking doubles your chances of losing your sight by damaging the tissues of the eyes. Research has confirmed the harmful effects of smoking on eyesight, particularly in the development of AMD. Smokers double their risk of developing AMD, and tend to develop it earlier than non-smokers.
Smoking is also linked to the development of cataracts, and can make diabetes-related sight problems worse. Smoking increases free radicals, which accelerate ageing, and alter the body’s ability to absorb or extract necessary vitamins and minerals from food. So make stopping smoking a top priority and remember: passive smoking is almost as harmful to you and your family as smoking.
Sun and safety protection
Protecting your eyes from blue and ultraviolet (UV) light all year round is important. There are three types of ultraviolet radiation (UVR): A, B and C. UVC is generally blocked by the earth’s atmosphere, however, 90 per cent of UVA and UVB reaches us.
Wearing sunglasses and a broad brimmed hat or cap helps to protect your eyes – and when choosing sunglasses, always buy from a reputable seller. Make sure your and your kids’ sunnies carry a European CE mark or British Standard BSEN 1836:2005 to ensure good quality lenses.
Lenses with insufficient UV protection can actually be more harmful than not wearing sunglasses at all. Around 80 per cent of damage from UV and blue light occurs before the age of 18, so it’s important children also wear hats and sunglasses. And don’t forget to protect your eyes with safety specs when you’re gardening or carrying out DIY or setting off fireworks.
Top tips checklist
- Have regular eye exams
- Eat well
- Keep fit and healthy
- Play outdoors
- Drink alcohol in moderation
- Stop smoking
- Wear UV protective sunglasses
Sources of information