Have you noticed your eyesight has worsened as you get older? Do you have problems reading or seeing the tv clearly? Do you have trouble seeing well enough to do everyday tasks? Or are you younger but constantly in front of a screen?
If you answered yes to any of these then you are not alone in your worries about your eye health. A recent poll by Fight for Sight found that 38% of people in the UK who have been using screens more during lockdown, believe their eyesight has been negatively affected leading to difficulty reading, increased headaches & migraines and poorer night vision.
It is believed that 50% of the population over 75 years have age-related eye problems such as cataracts, macular degeneration, or glaucoma with 1 in 5 suffering from loss of sight.
However, the good news is that researchers and clinicians have found that the majority of these can be prevented, and the rate of deterioration slowed, through specific dietary and lifestyle changes.
Research indicates that someone is more likely to develop age-related eye problems when their body is repeatedly exposed to high levels of free radicals - the damaging chemicals created during periods of stress and exposure to smoke, ultraviolet light, and environmental toxins - and when their own supply of antioxidants – the dietary substances that help to neutralise free radicals – are low. This imbalance, along with genetic considerations is at the heart of most chronic disease and age-related eye problems.
So, what can you do to try and keep your eyes in the best health possible?
Visit an Eye Specialist
If you are noticing a change in your sight or having problems with your vision, you need to know what may be causing this and what the treatment options available to you are. The most likely conditions that you will be diagnosed with are: -
Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) – is the slow breakdown and deterioration of the macula cells, a small yellowish area in the central part of the retina which is responsible for visual sharpness and central vision.
Cataract – is a clouding of the lens, the part of the eye that allows light to come in. It affects more than 50% of people over the age of 65 and is a common cause of a deteriorating vision.
Diabetic retinopathy - is a potentially blinding complication of diabetes that damages the eye's retina that affects up to half of all British people diagnosed with diabetes. It occurs when diabetes damages the tiny blood vessels in the retina.
Glaucoma - is a group of diseases that can lead to damage of the eye's optic nerve, resulting in blindness. Typical symptoms include progressive loss of vision, headaches, difficulty focusing on close work.
Lifestyle – too much screentime. Fight for Sight is encouraging those who have found their screen time has increased in the last year to adopt the 20-20-20 rule to help prevent eye strain. The rule recommends that for every 20 minutes spent using a screen, you should try to look away at something that is 20 feet away from you for a total of 20 seconds.
Eat a Healthy Diet
You need to eat a healthy diet that helps protect the eyes from free radicals. These antioxidants found naturally in foods called carotenes, particularly lutein and zeaxanthin are key for eye health. Lutein is found in dark leafy vegetables such as broccoli, courgettes, spinach, kale and cabbage and Zeaxanthin in yellow and orange fruits and vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, apricots, and peaches. Bilberries, blueberries, cranberries, cherries, and blackcurrants are all high in antioxidants and good for eye health. Other foods to eat include oily fish such as mackerel, garlic, onions, tomatoes, brown basmati rice, almonds, walnuts, and pumpkin/sesame seeds.
Many of us are unable to fully get the nutrients we need for optimum health from diet alone. Supplements therefore are not only of value in making up for what we are unable to get in the food we eat, some have been found by researchers to help prevent and slow the rate of deterioration of eye health by mopping up and neutralising excess free radicals. Look out for supplements that contain: -
Lutein – a powerful antioxidant which improves visual health by supporting healthy eye function and protecting against macular degeneration.
Bilberries - For decades bilberries have been associated with eye health and good vision. The most effective use for bilberry extract appears to be strengthening and protecting veins and arteries, including those in the eye, thereby improving night vision and short-sightedness.
Antioxidants such as vitamin A, beta-carotene, vitamin E and vitamin C can reduce the damage caused by free radicals thereby preventing or slowing the progression of eye disease. While these vitamins individually impact eye health, they become increasingly effective when used together.