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2 million British adults haven’t had an eye test in more than 5 years

4 min read

Did you know that as an adult you should get yours eyes tested at least once every 2 years? If you notice any changes to your visions then book in straight away.

Eye-related health problems in the UK are set to reach epidemic proportions

Many eye health issues can and will resolve themselves but others, if not properly treated, can lead to permanent changes in vision. Getting tested regularly allows your optician to diagnose issues early as well as keep on top of other health issues such as high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol. In fact, as these conditions can be present without any noticeable symptoms your optician can be the first to diagnose them by examining blood vessels and nerve fibers within the eye.

Half of cases can be avoided with better eye care

Recent data released by the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness revealed that eye-related health problems in the UK are set to reach epidemic proportions within the next three decades. As many as 50% of cases related to vision impairment could however be avoided with better eye care. The time to take preventative measures is now.

If you notice any changes within your eyes then of course it's always better to get them checked, however insignificant it may feel, but never ignore things like eye pain, blurred vision, burning or floaters with flashing lights. Redness and irritation can also be a sign that you need to start taking better care of your eyes, whether this is via dietary means or by reducing their exposure to digital devices.

Nutrition is key

Dietary help includes packing in foods rich in antioxidants, omega-3 fats, beta-carotene, vitamin A,C and E and particularly the eye health saviours lutein and zeaxanthin.

Orange and yellow coloured fruits and vegetable including carrots, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe melon and apricots are all great sources of beta-carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A, a nutrient that can help protect against eye infections, dry eyes and night blindness.

Egg yolks and green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, lettuce and broccoli are rich sources of lutein and zeaxanthin, which can protect eye tissues from the damaging effects of blue light (emitted from the sun and digital devices) as well as reduce the risk of eye changes related to ageing, particularly age related macular degeneration.

Blueberries are full of antioxidants, which may reduce your risk of cataracts and glaucoma. They are particularly rich in anthocyanins (a potent antioxidant) that bolster collagen structure in the retina and provide extra vision protection. They also may improve vision in those with normal tension glaucoma, a form of the disease that damages the optic nerve. Anthocyanins are found in other purple, blue and dark red foods like red or purple grapes, blackberries, pomegranates and cranberries. 

If you are not confident that your diet contains enough of the foods listed above then a supplement is a fantastic fail safe. An eye health supplement, containing Lutein, Zeaxanthin and Meso-Zeaxanthin as well as Vitamin A can help protect the health of your eyes now, so they are able to serve you better in older age.

If you are a woman reaching menopausal age you may notice your eyes becoming dryer, this is caused by hormonal changes, particularly low levels of estrogen and androgens. It's not just women though, as we age (over 50) the risk of dry eyes increases regardless of sex.  

The best nutritional supplements to reduce dry eye symptoms contain omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s, especially molecules described as long-chain EPA and DHA, are anti-inflammatory. It appears that by reducing inflammation, particularly inflammation of the tear glands and the surface of the eye, omega-3 supplements can reduce or prevent dry eye problems in many individuals. Omega-3s can also reduce the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration by up to 40% so if your diet doesn't contain enough oily fish then it's strongly recommended you consider taking an omega-3 supplement.

Protect yourself against blue-violet light

We know that ultraviolet light can impact vision because it can travel through the lens to the retina where it damages the cells there. This is why it's important to protect your eyes from bright sunlight by wearing sunglasses that block 100% of UVA and UVB light. However less is known about blue light, this is at the same end of the light spectrum as UV, i.e it has short wave lengths and therefore more energy. The main source of it is the sun but it is also emitted by TV's, computer screens and smart phones. In comparison to the sun digital devices emit relatively small amounts of blue light, the issue however is the amount of time we spend on digital devices and the proximity they are to our faces. In other words, the cumulative effect over time as blue light passes through the lens to the retina. Damage to the retina can cause vision problems such as age-related macular degeneration, which can lead to permanent vision loss. Macular degeneration is the most-common reason for blindness in adults in the western world.

The powerful carotenoids mentioned above, Lutein, Zeaxanthin and Meso-Zeaxanthin are all naturally found in the macular of the human eye, they protect the health of the eye by absorbing damaging blue light rays. You can help support this natural protective function by ensuring your diet is full of the right foods, as listed above, or by taking a supplement.

The other problem caused by over use of digital devices is visual fatigue, this is becomingly increasingly common in the UK. The problems is made worse where the pixels on screens constantly refresh, causing the eyes to constantly refocus. Eye strain can be reduced by following the 20-20-20 rule - this means taking a break from screens every 20 minutes, focus on something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

In summary

There is so much you can do now to protect the health of your eyes in later life, so take charge and do it! Poor diet, UV exposure, increased screen time, smoking and drinking excessively can all take it's toll. But with the right food choices, support from supplements, regular exercise and of course ditching the smoking and excessive drinking you can improve the health of your eyes, and the rest of your body for that matter!

A healthy balanced diet is the best way to consume all the nutrients we need. Sometimes however this isn't possible and then supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying any supplements or herbal medicines.
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