However, you can take steps to protect the health of your eyes.
Regular eye checks
This is one of the most important (yet neglected) things you should do. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 80 per cent of visual impairment can be treated or prevented. For people with no eye diseases or risk factors, two-yearly check-ups are recommended. If it’s been a while since your last check, speak to your optometrist or ophthalmologist.
Protect eyes from UV light
Just as UV light can damage our skin, it can also damage our eyes contributing to cataracts, ptergium (a corneal growth) and age-related macular degeneration. This condition occurs when the centre of the retina (the ‘macula’) is physically disturbed. You should wear sunglasses with good UV protection, as well as a broad-brimmed hat.
The dangers of smoking are well documented, but what you may not know is that smoking is linked to macular degeneration. It also contributes to cardiovascular disease which may have an impact upon your eyes and your vision. So if you smoke, take steps to quit.
Use eye protection
It may sound obvious but you should wear appropriate eye protection when engaging in activities that pose risk to your eyes. Tasks such as cleaning with chemicals, mowing the lawn, using power tools and cooking over a naked flame can all contribute to eye injuries. Using safety glasses will reduce the risk of injury.
Eating good food does indeed nourish the body, including the eyes. Eating foods high in antioxidants (e.g. green leafy veggies), omega-3 fats, vitamins E and C and minerals like zinc and selenium can help prevent or slow down the development of macular degeneration.
Manage your diabetes
Taking steps to reduce your risk of diabetes, or managing your diabetes if you already have it, will go a long way to protecting your eyes. People with diabetes are at increased risk of diabetic retinopathy. This condition is characterised by damaged blood vessels in the retina, which leads to vision loss or blindness.
It’s important to remember that some eye diseases are hereditary (run in the family). Examples of these include glaucoma (excessive pressure in the eyeball) and macular degeneration. If members of your family have suffered these, speak to your optometrist as you may need more regular tests.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding your eye health, speak to your optometrist or ophthalmologist.