Keeping your eyes healthy

Dr Davina Deniszczyc Dr Davina Deniszczyc Medical Executive Director, Nuffield Health
Some of us may be at higher risk of developing sight problems, but by having regular eye tests and making small adjustments to our habits and diet, we can support good eye health.

It’s easy for us to neglect our eyes, as they often don’t hurt when there's a problem. Glaucoma, an eye disorder marked by high pressure in the eyeball, has no symptoms until the damage has been done and can’t be reversed.

You may have a higher risk of developing eye conditions if you have a family history of them. And generally over 40s are more likely to develop sight problems, with over 60s more likely still.

So it’s even more important to have your eyes tested on a regular basis if you’re in these groups.

Get an eye test at least every two years

Eye tests aren’t just to find out if you need glasses, or a new prescription, they can also help protect and prolong your vision.

An eye care professional can investigate symptoms such as cloudy vision and floaters and detect eye conditions such as cataracts, (where the lens becomes covered in an opaque film that can eventually cause total sight loss).

They can also identify issues that may not have obvious warning signs, such as glaucoma, and provide treatment to improve your vision and eye health.

An eye test is recommended at least every two years, and more frequently if you already have problems with your eyes.

Exercises to prevent screen damage

Many of us spend hours on end looking at our phones and computer screens, which can be very damaging for our eyes. Here are 5 simple exercises you can do to defend your eyes from these everyday activities:

  1. Pause to look into the distance or out of the window at regular intervals
  2. Blink your eyes regularly
  3. Stretch your head and neck from time to time
  4. Take frequent breaks from the screen to relieve your eyes
  5. Always work in well-lit conditions to prevent eye strain.

Nutrition for healthier eyes

There's a strong link between good nutrition and reduced risk of eye diseases such as cataracts, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and glaucoma. Here are the nutrients that will help and how to get more of them:

  • Vitamin A: This is a key ingredient for healthy eyes – more specifically lutein and zeaxanthin. These carotenoids are found inside the human eye and help protect the retina and cornea. You’ll find them in spinach, kale, carrots, squash and pumpkin.
  • Betalains: These help protect specialised nerve signalling, which is vital for communication between the eyes and brain. Get it from beetroot, rhubarb and Swiss chard.
  • Antioxidants: Antioxidants protect the body against free-radical damage and keep cells healthy. These can be found in green tea, turmeric, garlic.
  • Astaxanthin: This marine algae is the compound that makes prawns and salmon pink. Eat these two to three times a week to support your eye health.
  • Vitamin C: Studies have shown that nerves in the eye need vitamin C to function properly. Strawberries, kiwi, raw peppers, spinach, broccoli and carrots all contain it.
  • Vitamin E: This is another potent antioxidant that may reduce oxidation in the eyes and support eye health. You’ll get it from avocados, raw almonds and sunflower seeds.
  • Zinc: High levels of zinc are found in the retina, so healthy levels are thought to help maintain good eye health. Eat sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds to boost your zinc intake.

Maintaining healthy habits

Lower your risk of developing eye diseases further them by following these lifestyle recommendations:

  • Avoid smoking: Research has shown that smoking can lead to a multitude of eye-related health problems
  • Wear sunglasses: This will protect your eyes from harmful UV radiation emitted from the sun
  • Manage stress: Symptoms of stress can manifest in the eyes.

Sources

https://www.royalfree.nhs.uk/services/services-a-z/stop-smoking-service/smoking-and-your-eyes/

Last updated Wednesday 25 November 2020