As we all adjust to the “new normal”, thinking about eye health has probably fallen down our list of priorities.
This is to be expected, of course – until recently most optometrists have been offering limited services, non-essential appointments have been postponed, and most of us have been a little wary of heading to a hospital or clinic.
But did you know that there are many things you can do right now to reduce your risk of sight loss? We know that our sight is the sense that we fear losing the most, but so many of us have no idea that we have the power to protect and preserve it.
Currently in Wales there are an estimated 121,000 people living with sight loss, a figure that is set to double by 2050, and with 50 percent of sight loss being avoidable it makes sense to get your eyes checked and look after your eyes.
This National Eye Health Week (21 to 27 September) I would love to see readers of this paper committing to these simple steps to help keep your eyes healthy:
Book your eye test! Eye tests are more than just a chance to get new glasses or contact lenses; they’re vital check-ups for your eyes. Optometrists are now taking bookings again. By attending you’ll be making sure that any signs of eye disease are detected early.
Wear your sunglasses! Though we’re getting closer to winter, you should always protect your eyes when you’re out in the sunshine and don’t look at the sun directly. Take two minutes to check that your sunglasses have the CE, BS and UV400 marks which show that they have the right level of ultraviolet protection. If they don’t then it’s a good excuse to snap up a new pair in the sales.
Know your family eye history! Glaucoma is a condition which, if detected early, can be treated and controlled. It can be hereditary, so if family members have the condition you need to get your eyes tested more regularly.
Clean your contact lenses! Only use commercially prepared solutions when you’re cleaning your lenses. Never use tap or distilled water, or saliva. If you don’t stick to a strict cleansing routine your eyes can become infected and you risk corneal disease, or even the loss of an eye. Don’t sleep in your contacts unless advised by your optician.
Eat well! A healthy diet is hugely beneficial, not only for your eyesight but for your general health. Antioxidants can help keep your eyes functioning healthily. Make sure you eat plenty of broad leafy greens like kale and spinach as well as colourful fruit and vegetables like carrots, oranges, sweet peppers and corn. Other antioxidant-rich foods worth adding to your shopping list include eggs, broccoli and oily fish like salmon, tuna and mackerel.
Get active! Being more active and getting plenty of exercise can help improve your overall health, particularly reducing your risk of developing conditions which can have an impact on your eye health like Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and hardening or narrowing of the arteries.
Stop smoking! It may surprise you that after ageing, smoking is the second biggest risk factor for developing one of the leading causes of sight loss, macular degeneration. Smoking also increases your chances of developing cataracts.
Protect your eyes! Cleaning, DIY and gardening can all be hazardous to your eyes so make sure you wear protective eye wear.
With the extra pressure put onto our health service during this time, it’s especially important to look after ourselves the best we possibly can.