With the demands of work and life making our time all the more precious nowadays, often our eye health is the first thing to get overlooked.
So what are the simple things that we can do on a daily basis to reduce the risk of developing future eye problems and eye diseases? From eye exercises to diet modifications , supplements to sunglasses, there are many ways for ensuring our eyes are kept as healthy as they can possibly be.
Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon, Saj Khan and Senior Optometrist, Shruti Varsani of the London Eye Hospital , Harley Street, provided us with their top eye care tips that we can start to implement now. It’s never too late to start.
1. Be aware of the risk factors
When it comes to the most common eye problems, which are the ones that people are more likely to develop nowadays and are there any ways to prevent them? “We see many cases of age-related macular degeneration, which is a disease that mainly affects people over the age of 40,” says Saj Khan. “AMD cannot be prevented, but has certain risk factors, such as age, smoking, poor diet, UV exposure and genetics.
“We also frequently see patients who have diabetic retinopathy, a condition that can be prevented by ensuring good sugar-level control. It is most likely to affect long-term diabetics and Type 1 diabetics. Glaucoma is another common condition that unfortunately cannot be prevented, but if it is picked up early it can be managed well, preventing it from reaching the advanced stages.”
2. Relieve dry eyes with your diet
Need some dry eye relief? An inside out approach could provide just the remedy. “Simple solutions can help reduce the uncomfortable symptoms of dry eyes. Make sure your diet is rich in Omega 3 and antioxidant-rich foods such as fish, seeds and berries,” advises Saj Khan. “Also apply lubricating drops as required to the affected eye or eyes.
“Lid hygiene is extremely important,” he adds. “Use cotton wool and a cleaning solution to gently clean your eyelids twice a day. Warm compresses also help, as does drinking plenty of water.”
3. Practice vision-boosting eye exercises
Think workouts are reserved solely for toned abs and leaner legs? Think again. Including an easy eyesight enhancing exercise into our daily routines could be just the test for strengthening eye muscles and focus. “There is a very clever one for people with Presbyopia – a condition that affects most people over the age of 40 in which the eye’s ability to focus on nearby objects is reduced – called ‘pencil push ups,’” recommends Saj Khan. “You hold a pencil in front of your eyes, bringing it closer until it becomes blurry. At this point try to concentrate on the pencil, making the image clearer and then gradually move the pencil further away. You can do it as often as you like.”
4. Don’t leave your sunglasses in the shade
More than a fashion statement, the right sunglasses could prove pivotal in giving our SPF artilleries an invaluable boost. “We can’t stress how important it is to protect your eyes in the sun; UV protection will ensure that your retinas are protected,” says Saj Khan. “Choose sunglasses that offer good physical coverage of your eyes and have wide spectrum UV cover protection. Always make sure that your sunglasses meet safety standards too,” he adds.
5. Don’t scratch!
Avert avoidable damage by resisting the urge to itch. “Don’t itch your eyes; you can damage the corneas,” warns Shruti Varsani.
6. Book in for regular eye exams
When it comes to eye tests, how often should we book in? “You must have eye exams regularly. Every two years is usually fine, unless you have a family history of eye problems or you suffer from general health problems. For example, diabetics should have eye exams more frequently, usually annually,” recommends Shruti.
7. Don’t ignore the signs you might need glasses
When it comes to recognising that we might need a helping hand in the eyesight department, sometimes ignorance can be bliss. However, we could be doing more damage in the long-term and putting our eye health in the firing line too. So what are the signs? “If you have to squint to see or you suffer from headaches or blurry vision, you need to have an eye exam to check if you need glasses,” advises Shruti.
8. Eat a balanced diet
“As well as Omega 3 helping with dry eyes, antioxidants can help with macular degeneration and cataracts,” says Shruti. “Overall, it is important to have a balanced diet.”
Even your humble cup of tea could help, too - in 2018 a study published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology found that drinking at least one cup of tea daily was associated with a significant 74% reduced risk of being diagnosed with glaucoma. If that's not reason to put the kettle on we don't know what is...
9. Prevent the spread of eye infections
Although easily done, don’t forget the basics. “Hygiene is key,” says Shruti. “Always ensure that your hands are clean before touching your eyes and don’t share towels.”
10. Make your eye health a priority
The final word? Make regular eye exams a priority, no matter how busy life gets. “Many conditions like diabetic eye disease, glaucoma and even macular degeneration aren’t symptomatic until much of the damage has already been caused. In the case of glaucoma, the damage is irreversible making it that much more important to pick it up early,” warns Saj Khan. “Do not wait until you are experiencing vision problems; make sure you arrange to have regular eye tests.”