Written by Timothy Okooboh
The eye is the organ of sight and it is popularly said that the eyes are the windows to your soul. As a pharmacist, I am usually very disturbed whenever I meet people with eye problems and most of the time, depending on severity, my intervention is patient education and referral to an eye doctor. However, there are basic tips for healthy eyes which when applied can help maintain and restore a good eye sight even towards old age. Every one should know this. Every health care provider should know this and not just the eye doctors.
Common Symptoms of eye problems include blurred vision, redness, pain, swelling, fluid discharge, and irritation. Common eye problems include conjunctivitis, cataract, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, short and long sightedness. The following tips have been proven useful for making your eyes healthy:
1. Regular eye check ups
As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure. As earlier stated, common signs and symptoms accompanying eye problems include blurred vision, redness, pain, discharge, swelling, and irritation. But most times there may already be problems with the eyes yet no symptoms present. Therefore, regular eye check ups with your eye doctor can help to detect problems before symptoms arise and this can greatly increase your chance of being treated successfully and even at low cost before the problem becomes severe.
But how often is regular? According to the American Optometric Association, a comprehensive eye exam should be done once every two years for adults between 18 to 60 years who belong to the risk free group and once in a year for adults 61 years and older who belong to the risk free group or as recommended by your eye doctor. ‘At risk‘ adults, irrespective of age, should visit the eye doctor once in a year for a comprehensive eye exam or as recommended by their doctor.
NB: At risk adults are those with diabetes, hypertension, a history of eye trauma, and those who use contact lens or prescription glasses.
Also, there are certain signs or symptoms that warrant visiting the eye doctor immediately and they include, pain in the eyes, prolonged blurred vision, bloodshot eyes, and eye injury.
2. Healthy diets and supplements with nutrients good for the eyes.
Vitamin A, C, E, Zinc, Lutein, Zeaxanthin, and Omega-3 fatty acids are nutrients that promote good eye sight. These nutrients help to prevent age-related macular degeneration (macular is the center part of the retina), clouding of the eyes and cataracts. The antioxidants such as lutein and zeaxanthin protect the eyes against damage from sunlight, smoke, and air pollution.
Green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale, and grape fruits and straw berries are rich in lutein and zeaxanthin. Oysters, crab, turkey, peanuts and eggs are rich in zinc. Rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids include sardine, salmon, herring and tuna.
There are eye supplements known as AREDS (Age Related Eye Disease Study) and AREDS 2 supplements that contain these nutrients in adequate amounts that have been scientifically proven to prevent poor eye sight due to age-related macular degeneration. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist to recommend one of these supplements e.g. MaxiVision, Ocuvite, I-Caps.
NB: AREDS 2 supplements do not contain beta carotene hence are good for smokers or those who have quitted smoking compared to AREDS supplements. High doses of beta carotene increases the chance of developing lung cancer in smokers (source, Medscape).
3. Reduce eye strain
Straining the eyes while using your cell phone, computer, or watching television can cause eye fatigue, watery or overly dry eyes, difficulty focusing, and blurred vision. Eye strain can be avoided or reduced by:
- Applying the 20-20-20 Rule. While using electronic devices, every 20 minutes look away and look at something 20 feets away for 20 seconds.
- Blink often when using your computer.
- Adjust the font size and brightness of your cell phone and computer.
- Position the monitor directly in front of you such that the distance between you and the monitor is at arm’s length and the top of the screen is at or just below eye level.
- Read under good lighting.
4. Avoid excessive exposure of the eyes to the sun
The sun produces ultraviolet rays such as UVA and UVB which can have a harmful effect on the eyes after some time (cumulative effect). UVB is absorbed mostly by the cornea and can over a long period of time cause cataract, photokeratitis, an eye growth called pterigium and a type of eye cancer known as squamous cell carcinoma of the conjunctiva. UVA can penetrate through the cornea and reach the retina (inner layer of the eye) where it can cause damage to the macula of the retina, promoting age-related macular degenetration. So at old age, poor eye sight can be a problem because of the cumulative harmful effect of sunlight on the eyes. This can be prevented by using:
- Sun glasses. Ensure that the sun glasses are those that block 99-100 % of UVA and UVB. Make sure the sun glasses are wrap-around and close fitting as this can ensure that sun rays from all angles are blocked from reaching the eyes.
- Wear hat, face cap or even use an umbrella to protect the eyes during sunny days.
- Avoid looking directly at the sun.
5. Avoid bathing or swimming with contact lenses
The FDA recommends that contact lenses should not be exposed to any kind of water including tap water and swimming pools. Exposure of contact lenses to water can predispose the eyes to eye infection, irritation, corneal ulcers and possible bacteria contamination with an organism called Acanthamoeba which is known to cause a serious eye infection called Acanthamoeba keratitis. Also, properly disinfect contact lenses before wearing them.
6. Avoiding touching the eyes as much as possible.
Try not to rub your eyes when dust falls on them instead wash with clean water.
7. Watch your weight.
Over weight or obesity is a risk factor for developing diabetes and hypertension. Hypertension itself is a risk factor for diabetes. Damage to the retina of the eyes is one of the complications of diabetes. So by watching your weight you are not just preventing diabetes and hypertension, you are also protecting your eyes.
8. Quit smoking and avoid exposure of the eyes to smoke and dusts
Apart from the negative impact smoking has on the heart and lungs, research has also linked smoking to age-related macular degeneration, cataract, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.
Your eyes are very important and should be properly taken care of. Apply the eye care tips above and give your eyes the care they deserve.
Are there other eye care tips you are aware of and would like to share? kindly drop your comments or questions below.
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