Your eyesight is one of your most important senses. Find out how to protect your vision and maintain the health of your eyes, especially as you age.
In Australia, age-related degenerative diseases are major causes of blindness and vision loss. Age-related degenerative diseases include:
- age-related macular degeneration.
Other conditions that can also cause significant vision damage include:
- diabetic retinopathy (eye damage caused by diabetes)
- retinitis pigmentosa (a genetic condition where the retina begins to degenerate)
- un-corrected refractive errors (where objects up close appear clearly but objects far away appear blurry)
- trachoma (a contagious bacterial infection of the eye)
- eye injuries.
Though treatments are available for most of these conditions, simple lifestyle habits can help to protect your eyesight and reduce your risk of vision damage.
Have your eyes tested and macula (at the back of your eye) checked regularly with an optometrist or ophthalmologist. Eye tests can pick up on a range of diseases you might never realise you have, such as glaucoma, diabetic eye disease and age-related macular degeneration.
Stop (or never start) smoking
After ageing, smoking is the second-biggest risk factor causing vision damage. Smokers are three times as likely to develop diseases such as macular degeneration than non-smokers, and they are also likely to develop it at an earlier age.
Eat right to protect your sight
Foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids and antioxidants are great for eye health. Eat fish at least twice a week and regularly include green, leafy vegetables, blueberries, strawberries, yellow vegetables, and nuts and seeds.
Maintain a healthy weight
Controlling your weight and exercising regularly will help to look after your blood vessels, including those in your eyes. Being overweight or obese can increase your risk of developing diabetes, which can lead to diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma.
Choosing the right sunglasses will help protect your eyes from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. UV light can increase your risk of developing cataracts, so always go for sunglasses that block at least 99 per cent of UVA and UVB rays.
Take a break from the screen
Spending too much time in front of a computer or TV screen can cause eyestrain, blurry vision, problems in focusing at a distance and dry eyes. Ensure you take the following steps to look after your eyes by:
- keeping your glasses’ prescription up to date
- positioning the top of the screen at eye level so that you are looking down at it
- avoiding glare on the screen
- taking a 15-minute break every two hours
- blinking regularly.
You can also try the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, look away about 20 feet front of you for 20 seconds.
Use an Amsler grid
To check for possible symptoms or sudden changes in vision, use this easy, at-home self-monitoring tool. While the grid should be used daily, it doesn’t take the place of having regular eye tests and macula checks. For a free Amsler grid, call the Macular Disease Foundation Australia on 1800 111 709 or order online.