Eye health - protect your sightPosted on: 11 October 2011 by 50connect editorial
Some sight-threatening conditions have no symptoms and could cause you to lose up to 40 per cent of your sight before you even notice a difference.
By the time we’re 60, one in 12 of us will have developed a sight problem, by the time we are 75 it is as many as one in six. In fact, everyday another 100 people in the UK will start to lose their sight, yet a shocking 50 percent of sight loss could be prevented or treated.
Each year, the RNIB, the UK's leading sight loss charity, encourages people to take practical steps, such as getting regular eye tests, to safeguard their sight and keep their eyes happy and healthy - but it is a message that is still not getting across to Britain's growing number of over 50s.
Ageing - highest risk factor to sight
Age is the highest risk factor in developing some of the most common eye conditions, including age-related macular degeneration (AMD), glaucoma and cataracts.
These conditions can lead to blindness, it is imperitive that you do not to wait until you notice changes in your vision before visiting an optician. People aged over 60 are entitled to a free eye test on the NHS, and this can detect the early stages of a serious condition and ultimately, could save your sight.
Barrie Wheatley from Hull was diagnosed with glaucoma in 1988. It was picked up during a routine eye test, and luckily it was diagnosed early. Now aged 70, Barrie has good vision and still works part-time:
"I've got my glaucoma under control and suffered no sight loss as I managed to catch it early enough through an eye test," Barrie explains.
"I always tell my family to get their eyes tested regularly, as it's the best way to detect any problems before they start to affect your life."
It’s too dangerous to leave an eye test until you notice something’s wrong. Your eyes might look great and your eyesight might be fine, but that doesn’t necessarily mean your eyes are healthy. Some sight-threatening conditions such as Glaucoma have no symptoms in the early stages and can only be picked up through an eye test - yet many of us don't have regular check-ups.
Think of regular eye tests as an MOT for your eyes - you may have invested a lot of money in the car you drive and you wouldn't dream of failing to MOT or service the vehicle - your eyes are far more valuable to you. Don't wait until it is too late before you recognise how important they are to you.
Regular eye tests and a healthy lifestyle will save your sight
1. Regular eye tests
Your eyes might look great and your eyesight might be fine, but that doesn’t necessarily mean your eyes are healthy. Some sight-threatening conditions have no symptoms and could cause you to lose up to 40 per cent of your sight before you notice a difference. An eye test could pick up on these conditions and save your sight.
A full eye test with your local optician should take around 30 minutes and it is recommended you have one at least every two years. People aged over-60 are entitled to a free eye test on the NHS.
2. Don't smoke
Smoking greatly increases your risk of sight loss. Did you know that the link between smoking and AMD is as strong as the link between smoking and lung cancer?
Smokers are twice as likely as non-smokers to lose their sight to AMD, Britain's leading cause of sight loss, and to develop the condition at a younger age than non-smokers.
If you already smoke, quitting will reduce your risk of AMD and benefit your eyes. Speak to your doctor for help to stop smoking.
3. Eat healthily & watch your weight
A healthy diet could make a big difference to your sight. Eat plenty of green leafy vegetables such as spinach and broccoli and you'll help to protect against eye conditions such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Be sure to also include fruit such as oranges and kiwis, nuts, seeds and oily fish in your diet which are also great for your eyes.
Maintaining a healthy weight could also protect your sight. Obesity can increase the risk of developing diabetes, which in turn could lead to sight loss. If you find it difficult to maintain a healthy weight, ask your doctor for advice.
4. Cover up in the sun
It’s been known for some time that harmful UVA and UVB rays contained in sunlight can damage your skin – but experts now think they could also harm your eyes. These rays may increase the risk of cataracts and AMD.
The good news is that you can protect your eyes by simply wearing sunglasses with a built-in UV filter. Only buy sunglasses that have a CE mark or carry British Standard BSEN 1836:1997.
5. Safety first
Accidents that threaten your sight can happen easily at work or at play.
Whether you’re a keen gardener or love nothing more than a spot of DIY, always think about the potential risks to your sight and take the necessary precautions, like putting on a pair of safety goggles. It is easy for large particles to enter the eye and cause serious damage, but fine particles of dust and debris can also cause problems.
For more information about eye health visit RNIB.
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