Unfortunately, as we get older our eyes can begin to struggle and cause problems for us. Around two million people are affected by a form of blindness in the UK, with 360,000 people being officially registered as blind or partially sighted.
The ageing process does have a natural effect on our eyes and it may be that the majority of older people require glasses at some point. However, it is important that we do our part and look after our eyes as best as we can, to lower the risk of conditions such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
Here are six ways of protecting your eyes:
1. Get Your Eyes Tested
The main way that you can maintain and protect your eyes is by having them tested. Having regular eye tests will help opticians and doctors to notice if there is anything wrong with your eyesight. An eye test can detect symptoms of conditions such as glaucoma and cataracts. Interestingly, they can also detect general health issues such as hypertension and diabetes.
Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness worldwide, with an estimated two per cent of the UK population older than 40 having the disease. – Northern Echo
An eye test will also determine whether you require glasses, and what you need them for. For example, some people may only need to wear glasses for reading, whilst others require them for driving or watching TV.
If you already wear glasses, an eye test will check whether the lenses are still suitable for the health of your eyes. It’s important to wear the correct prescription lenses. This will improve your quality of life and reduce the risk of accidents such as falls.
Opticians often recommend having an eye test every two years, although if you suffer from poor sight or have any other eye-related issues this may become more frequent. Fortunately, people over the age of 60 can have free NHS eye tests as often as they need. Did you also know that you can have eye tests at home as well? Have a look at the video below.
2. Wear Sunglasses
Strong levels of sunlight can cause damage to your eyes and can increase the risk of cataracts. It’s important that you wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from the UV Rays, ensuring that your chosen pair have wraparound lenses or wide arms with the CE Mark and European Standard EN 1836:2005 on them. If you wear glasses, you should ensure that you have prescription sunglasses which are suitable for the condition of your eyes.
Although it may seem obvious, you should also avoid looking directly at the sun. Doing so may cause irreversible damage to your eyesight and even lead to blindness.
3. Get Plenty of Sleep
Getting plenty of sleep if vital for our overall health and well-being, but it also has an effect on your eyes. As you sleep, your eyes are continuously lubricated, and any dust or smoke accumulated during the day is cleared away.
A lack of sleep can lead to your eyes becoming red, swollen and dry. They may also become more sensitive to light, become blurry and itchy – which may worsen if you proceed to rub your eyes. Some tips of help beat insomnia include:
- Avoiding caffeine and sugars in the evening.
- Avoid electronic screens (tablets, phones, computers) during the last two hours before bed.
- Have a sleeping pattern. Go to bed and get up at roughly the same time.
- Ensure you have a comfy bed. Your mattress needs to be perfect, not too hard or too soft.
4. Good Lighting at Home
Did you know that your eyes need three times as much light when you’re 60 then when you were 20? With this in mind, you need to ensure that your home has good lighting and that you’re not over-straining your eyes or risking a fall.
You need to increase the amount of daylight in your home and ensure that you have good electric lighting throughout. You can do this by keeping your windows clean and curtain pulled back all the way during the day.
Having lights at the top and bottom of the stairs, and use flexible table lamps if your planning on reading or doing some work at home. Use a direct light from the lamp, positioned so the light is not reflected by the page and causing glare.
5. Stop Smoking
Just as with other health conditions, smoking can also have a negative effect on your eyes. In particular, smoking can increase the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts. In fact, you are four times more likely to develop AMD if you smoke compared to someone who has never smoked.
The NHS are on-hand to help you to stop smoking, and they suggest:
- Talking to your GP.
- Joining your local stop smoking service.
- Joining websites such as Smokefree.
- Giving the helpline a call on 0300 123 1044.
- Considering using a nicotine-containing product.
6. Eat Well
Eating a balanced diet is important for our overall health and well-being, but it can also benefit your eyesight. There are several foods which can help lower the risk of AMD and cataracts. You should focus on including the following in your diet:
- Spinach and kale.
- Vitamin C – Sprout, strawberries, oranges, green peppers.
- Zinc – Turkey, oysters and crab.
- Omega 3 – Salmon, sardines and herring.
- Vitamin A – Carrots, pumpkin and sweet potato.
7. Give Your Eyes a Rest
If you work in an office or stare at a screen a lot, it’s important to have regular breaks from this, as this could put strain on your eyes. In addition to this, you should have regular check ups to ensure you don’t need any optical equipment.
If you feel like you’re straining to read the screen or if you get headaches frequently, this is a red flag that you should get your eyes tested. Many workplaces will be able to offer you vouchers to help reduce the cost of any necessary glasses to do your job.