Every year from 21 September to 18 October, the importance of eye health is highlighted as part of national Eye Care Awareness Month. One of the most important messages of the annual awareness campaign is the prevention and treatment of avoidable blindness.
Inge Loubser, an experienced optometrist at the leading optometry group, Mellins i.Style compiled a list of the top five things that you can do to take care of one of our most precious gifts: The gift of sight.
“While not all eye diseases can be prevented, there are a number of simple steps that everyone can take to help their eyes remain healthy now and reduce the chances of vision loss in future,” says Inge.
Here are five of these steps:
- Wear sunglasses
Sunglasses is so much more than just a fashion item. Direct sunlight can hasten the formation of cataracts. Therefore, ultraviolet (UV) blocking sunglasses remain one of your best ways to protect your eyesight as it can delay the development of cataracts. But this is not where the benefits of wearing a good pair of shades stop: Your sunglasses can also prevent retinal damage and protect the delicate eyelid skin to prevent skin cancer around the eye (and of course those dreaded wrinkles!).
*Make sure your sunglasses block 100% of UVA and UVB rays.
*Wear your sunnies even on cloudy days!
2. Get tested
One of the more serious eye conditions, glaucoma, can be treated more successfully if diagnosed early. An untreated eye disease can cause serious vision loss and blindness.
How often should you get your eyes tested?
Inge recommends that you have a comprehensive eye exam every two years, but if you fall in any of the categories below, you should make that appointment every year:
- under 16 years old
- over 60 years old
- a family history of eye diseases, no matter how old you are
- have diabetes
- have glaucoma – increased eye pressure
- have ocular hypertension
What is a comprehensive eye exam?
There is a difference between and eye screening and an eye exam. A comprehensive eye exam should include:
- a detailed discussion of your personal and family medical history
- vision tests to determine if you are near-sighted, far-sighted, have astigmatism (a curved cornea that blurs vision) or presbyopic (age-related vision changes)
- tests to see how well your eyes work together
- eye pressure and optic nerve tests to check for glaucoma
- external and internal examinations of your eyes
*Know your family history. Many eye diseases cluster in families, so you should know your family’s history of eye disease because you may be at increased risk. If you are a parent and you have an eye condition, it is important to have your kids’ eyes checked at least every year.
*Only an eye healthcare professional like an optometrist can identify serious vision problems, like glaucoma or diabetic retinopathy, at a stage early enough to treat.
3. Eat right
The common belief that eating carrots can improve vision has some truth, but a variety of vegetables, especially leafy green ones, should be an important part of your diet. People who regularly eat food containing high levels of vitamins C and E, zinc, lutein (e.g. kale and spinach) and the omega-3 fatty acids (e.g. oily fish), are less likely to develop early and advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a common condition affecting the central part of your vision
*Eat at least 5 servings daily of fruits and vegetables and “think green”, like spinach, kale and broccoli.
4. Take a break
Ever heard of the 20-20-20 rule? 2020 is the year to ensure that you make this rule part of your life!
Eye care specialists advise that everyone who works at a computer or does close work, should look up every 20 minutes at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
“If you follow this rule, but still suffer from eye fatigue, it can be a sign of several different conditions, such as dry eye, age related vision changes or eye strain induced by digital devices. It could also mean that you need to consider digital lenses with a Blue Protect coating,” says Inge. If you suffer from any of these symptoms it is recommended that you schedule an appointment with your optometrist.
5. Keep it clean
We tend to overlook proper care for our eyes. Here’s a few easy additions to your daily routine that can help to avoid infection and contamination, and at the same time improve your vision:
*remove your makeup nightly, as excess debris from makeup can cause eye irritation and redness.
*wash your hands regularly – fortunately proper hand sanitising has become top of mind with the outbreak of the Coronavirus globally. It is a fact that common eye infections such as viral conjunctivitis (pink eye) can be avoided with proper handwashing.
*Good eye hygiene also means avoid sharing towels, makeup or eye drops, as this will ensure that your eye lids are kept clean and free to avoid swelling of the eyelid that could result in inflamed, itchy, red eyelids.