We’re going to cut straight to the chase. You need to be kinder to your eyes, starting now! About 285 million people worldwide are vision impaired or blind, and the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates 80 per cent of those cases could have been avoided outright or, at the very least, treated and managed. We know, the world’s a big place and not everyone has access to the wonderful level of health care we enjoy. Nevertheless, right here in our own backyard, the statistic remains pretty much the same. By the year 2020 (kind of ironic, no?) it’s estimated more than 800,000 Australians will experience serious vision loss or blindness. And about 75 per cent of those cases could have been prevented and/or treated before reaching the point of no return.
Keep an eye on your eyes
Don’t take your eyes for granted! As delicate and complex as they are, taking good care of your eyes is actually pretty easy. Fortunately, they’re also incredibly resilient and forgiving. Here’s what to do for a lifetime of healthy, beautiful eyes.
Schedule a check-up
Along with vision correction, an optometrist checks the total health of your eyes. They test for serious problems such as age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma, both leading causes of preventable blindness. You won’t notice early warning signs of those conditions, but a professional will.
• After age 40, if you’re in good general health, you should have an eye exam every two to three years.
• If you’re over 65 you should have an annual eye exam.
• If you wear contacts, go for a check-up once a year.
• Begin earlier annual check-ups if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, frequent migraines, previous eye injury or a family history of eye disease.
• Obviously, if you experience any unusual vision issues such as pain, trouble focusing, double vision, light sensitivity, loss of peripheral vision, dry or extremely watery eyes, have it checked out immediately. Don’t just cross your fingers and hope it goes away!
Make like a movie star
Cancer of the cornea and cataracts? No thanks. Wear sunnies outside whether skies are cloudy or clear. Choose those with an eye protection factor (EPF) of three or higher to protect your peepers from harmful UV light. Remember, kids should shade up, too.
Rest your baby blues
There’s a new threat to eye health many screen junkies may not be ready to hear, but it’s an important one. Our love affair with computers, phones and tablets could be harming our eyes and our general wellbeing. Eye strain from constant use may cause headaches, blurred vision and dry eyes. But a more insidious problem is sleep disturbance caused by using devices late into the night. Screens emit an imperceptible blue light that interrupts production of the sleep hormone melatonin. Messed up sleep can lead to obesity and heart disease, not to mention exhaustion. If you can’t quit your screen a couple of hours before bed, invest in a blue light-blocking filter for your device. It won’t affect your gadget’s performance but it may save your health.
Feed your eyes
Everything you’ve heard about eating carrots for eye health is true, but the entire rainbow of fruits and vegies offers protective benefits. Make sure to eat everything from citrus and berries, to leafy greens and their cruciferous cousins. Egg yolks, almonds and fatty fish like tuna also tick the eye-health box.
It may not be sexy, but wearing eye protection to prevent accidental injury when you’re playing certain sports, working with harsh cleaning chemicals or doing DIY projects makes solid safety sense.