Looking after your eyes
Looking after your eyes is important and a part of maintaining good overall health. Regular eye tests are also important as eyes don’t often hurt when there is a problem – regular eye tests help diagnose any optical related conditions as well as vision issues and changes.
Some people are more at risk of vision related issues. It is especially important to have regular eye tests if you are:
- Over 60 years of age.
- From a certain ethnic group
- People from Afro-Caribbean communities are at greater risk of developing glaucoma and diabetes.
- People from South-Asian communities are also at a greater risk of developing diabetes.
- Someone with a learning disability.
- Someone who has stroke or a history of stroke.
- Someone from a family with a history of eye disease (e.g. glaucoma, diabetes).
As part of good overall eye health, we recommend the following:
- Regular eye examinations
- The NHS recommends a standard eye test for patients under 70 years of age every two years even if there is no change in your vision.
- If you’re over 70 years of age, the NHS recommends an eye test every year.
- Monitor your eyes
- If you notice changes to your vision or significant health changes in between eye tests, consult your optician.
- Eat healthily.
- Eating a diet low in saturated fats but rich in green leafy vegetables such as spinach and broccoli may help delay the progression of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (ARMD). Oranges, kiwis, nuts, seeds and oily fish may also help prevent and slow down some eye conditions.
- Give up smoking
- Smokers are much more likely to develop age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) and cataracts than non-smokers.
- Reduce alcohol consumption
- Heavy alcohol consumption may increase the risk of developing early age-related macular degeneration (ARMD).
- Protect your eyes against the sun.
- Don’t look directly at the sun as this can lead to blindness and increased risk of cataracts. Wear a wide-brimmed hat or sunglasses to protect your eyes against UV rays.
- When playing certain sports and doing DIY it’s important to wear safety goggles to prevent fine particles or debris flying into your eye and seriously affecting your vision.
Nutrition and the eyes
It is important to eat healthily and have a balanced diet for good general health. This can also help prevent the development of certain eye conditions.
Being overweight is not a risk factor for developing eye conditions. However being overweight increases the risk of conditions including high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and some cancers. Complications from these conditions may lead to problems affecting your vision. These include retinal vessel occlusions, diabetic eye problems and eye conditions related to stroke. You can reduce the risk of developing these conditions by maintaining a healthy weight and having a balanced diet. Contact your GP for more advice on nutrition.
The Eatwell Guide shows that to have a healthy, balanced diet, people should try to choose a variety of different foods from the 5 main food groups:
- Fruit and Vegetables – Eat 5 fruit and vegetables a day.
- Carbohydrates – Base meals on starchy foods like potatoes, bread, rice or pasta.
- Dairy – Have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks).
- Protein – Eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other protein.
- Fats – Choose unsaturated oils and spreads, eaten in small amounts.
It also advises you to :
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- If you’re having foods and drinks that are high in fat, salt and sugar, have these less often and in small amounts.
Eye strain is a common problem today and can be caused by a number of factors including staring at a digital screen for too long, incorrect prescription and exposure to very bright light. Eye strain can cause discomfort, irritation, soreness, headaches, blurred vision and increased sensitivity to light.
Eye strain can be helped by using the 20-20-20 rule. The 20-20-20 rule says that for every 20 minutes of screen time, you should look at something at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. This is designed to alleviate eye strain and fatigue.
You can also do the following to alleviate eye strain:
- Blink often – When looking at a digital screen it’s common to blink less so ensure you blink often to help moisten and refresh your eyes.
- Take regular breaks – Especially when looking at a digital screen or looking at something up close for long periods of time, take regular breaks to reduce eye strain and also potentially back, neck and shoulder strain.
- Adjust your desk / screen – Make sure your monitor and chair are at the correct height for your eyes and ensure the monitor is adjusted to the appropriate brightness and contrast for you.
There are a number of eye conditions that can affect vision, and that we check for. Below are the most common eye conditions/amongst our patients.
Age-related Macular Degeneration. This condition causes changes to the central part of your retina which is called the macula, and this affects your central vision only (not your peripheral vision). ARMD is caused by a type of photoreceptor cell called cone cells in the macular area becoming damaged. There are two types of ARMD – Dry ARMD and Wet ARMD. Dry ARMD is the most common, develops slowly and gradually impairs your central vision. Wet ARMD develops much quicker and is caused by new blood vessel growing and bleeding underneath the macula – this damages your central vision and may lead to a blank patch in the centre of your vision. Symptoms of ARMD include difficulty reading fine print, straight lines beginning to look distorted or your vision becoming increasingly unclear.
Blepharitis is a common condition where the edge of the eyelids become red and swollen. It can develop at any age. Symptoms of blepharitis include itchy/sore/red eyelids, crusty/greasy eyelashes, burning/gritty sensation in the eyes, increased sensitivity to light, swollen eyes, irritation, and abnormal eyelash growth. Blepharitis is a long-term condition and it can’t usually be cured but it can be managed through good eyelid hygiene measures. However it is important to have an eye test to determine if there is an underlying condition. Blepharitis may lead to further complications such as dry eye syndrome so it is important to have regular eye tests to mitigate these conditions developing.
Cataracts causes changes to the lens in your eye making your vision cloudy. Cataracts are generally caused by age and usually develop slowly over time. Certain conditions increase your risk of developing cataracts. These include diabetes, eye trauma, certain medications, eye surgery, short-sightedness and certain eye conditions like glaucoma. Symptoms of cataracts include your vision becoming cloudy and misty, increased sensitivity to light, unclear vision. Cataracts are treated by surgery where the cloudy lens is removed and replaced by an artificial lens.
Conjunctivitis is an eye condition usually caused by infection or allergies. It normally affects both eyes and causes them to become bloodshot, itch, water and/or feel gritty. Symptoms of conjunctivitis may be alleviated by gently washing your eyes with boiled or distilled water. Eye drops or antihistamines may help and it is best to speak to your pharmacist about these. However if your conjunctivitis is caused by a bacterial infection, you need to see your GP who might prescribe antibiotics. Conjunctivitis can spread easily so it is important to reduce risk of spreading by washing hands regularly with soap, and, washing pillows/towels with hot water and detergent.
Dementia may causes problems with your vision even though the eyes themselves are healthy. If you have dementia, you may experience difficult reading, recognising people, coping with varying levels of light, locating things and seeing clearly. Sight loss can often be missed in people with dementia and so it is important to have regular eye tests to pick up and sight loss or vision problems. Treatment options can include glasses. It is also important to ensure your environment is set up to facilitate vision. For example, ensure even lighting in the home.
Diabetes can affect your vision however not everyone who has diabetes develops an eye condition. If you have Diabetes it is important for you to have regular eye tests. Regular eye tests can pick up early changes to your eye which if treated at the right time could prevent sight loss. The most common eye condition that can be caused by diabetes is diabetic retinopathy which is caused by tiny blood vessels at the back of your eye becoming blocked and leaking. You can reduce your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy by managing your diabetes. This includes controlling your blood glucose level, controlling your blood pressure, keeping fit, maintaining a healthy weight and regular retinal screening.
Dry Eye Syndrome is a common condition caused by a problem with your tears. Although it is irritating it does not lead to permanent sight loss. Dry eye syndrome is natural symptom of getting older but it can also be caused by certain medications, contact lenses and eye surgery. Symptoms of dry eye syndrome include dry eyes, irritation, and the sensation that something is in your eye. There is no official treatment for dry eye syndrome however it can be alleviated by making the most of your natural tears, using eye drops, and reducing the drawing away of tears.
Floaters (dots and lines) or flashes of light in the eyes are common and not usually serious. However if they appear suddenly, increase in number or they start after eye surgery or an eye injury, it could indicate a serious problem with the back of your eye. Other complications include blurred vision, eye pain, and/or a shadow moving across your vision. Floaters and flashes can develop with age and are usually caused by a harmless process called posterior vitreous detachment which affects the vitreous gel that takes up the space inside the eye. Floaters and flashes may also be caused by retinal detachment which can permanently affect your sight and so needs to be treated quickly.
Glaucoma is a condition where your optic nerve is damaged by the pressure of the fluid inside your eye and this can lead to permanent sight loss. Most types of glaucoma have no symptoms so it is important to have regular eye tests for early detection. Glaucoma can be caused by increased eye pressure or weakness in your optic nerve. The main aim of treatment for Glaucoma is to lower the pressure inside the eye to prevent damage to the optic nerve and reduce damage to your vision. Treatment options include eye drops, laser treatment or surgery.
Short sightedness or Myopia causes your vision to be clear when looking at things up close but blurry when looking at things in the distance. It may be caused by genetics, diabetes or cataracts. Short sightedness is very common and can be treated using glasses or contact lenses. The higher your level of short sightedness, the greater the risk of developing additional eye conditions so it is important to ensure you have regular eye tests.
Long sightedness or Hypermetropia causes your vision to be clear when looking at things in the distance but blurry when looking at things up close. It is also a very common condition and can be treated using glasses or contact lenses. Again it is important to ensure you have regular eye tests to prevent additional complications.
Stroke is one of the most common causes of disability in adults in the UK. It can affect your vision, eye muscles and nerves in the eye. Stroke can cause sight loss, blurred or double vision which can lead to difficulty focusing on objects, and difficulty processing images that you see. Treatment options include spectacles, prisms, patching, magnifiers and scanning techniques. Stroke can be a complex condition and affects people differently depending on which part of the brain is affected. Therefore if your vision has been affected by stroke, you may need to speak to multiple eye care professionals such as an ophthalmologist (hospital eye doctor), orthoptist (eye muscles specialist) or an optometrist (optician).
For more information or to arrange an appointment for an eye test, contact us on
For more information or to arrange an appointment for an eye test, contact us on 0800 292 2588