Our sight is so important to us and yet many people fail to look after their eye health which unfortunately can lead to sight impairment or even vision loss.
To mark World Sight Day last week, the Eye Doctors of Ireland encouraged people to take positive steps to protect their sight, an action aimed at ultimately improving the nation’s eye health and contributing towards a reduction in avoidable sight loss.
Commenting on the importance of regular eye examinations, Dr. Maureen Hillery, Eye Doctor in Community Services, Clonmel and at Waterford Regional Hospital, and member of the Irish College of Ophthalmologists stated- “More than half of all sight loss is avoidable when detected early and a regular eye test can identify early indications of eye diseases such as cataract, glaucoma, diabetes and Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD). Many age-related conditions can be successfully treated if detected early.”
“In the next fifteen years the Irish population aged 65 and over is set to double and the number of patients with age-related sight loss problems will increase”, Dr. Hillery continued , “It is therefore essential for people to become more aware of their eye health needs and be proactive about having their eyes tested at least every two years.”
It is also important to have young children tested too, especially if there is a family history of eye disease. A continuum of eye care for children that can include both vision screening and comprehensive eye exams is recommended by the Irish College of Ophthalmologists. Any child who experiences vision problems or shows symptoms of eye trouble should receive a comprehensive eye exam by an optometrist or an ophthalmologist.
There are certain tell-tale signs that can indicate a child may be experiencing a sight problem such as sitting close to the TV, holding objects very close to their face, blinking a lot, eye rubbing or one eye turning in or out.
The following simple steps to take better care of our eyes are recommended by eye doctors;
Diet – eat the right foods
Studies show that what we eat can affect our vision. Foods that are particularly high in antioxidants can help to prevent retinal damage and certain eye conditions like cataract and age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD). An anti-oxidant which hugely beneficial is lutein, found in many fruit and vegetables.
Foods recommended for eye health include: Broad leaf greens such as kale and spinach; Brightly coloured fruit and veg such as corn, carrots, orange, sweet peppers and oranges; Oily fish like salmon, tuna and mackeral; Broccoli; and Eggs
Look at your lifestyle habits:
Exercise - Lack of exercise contributes significantly to several eye conditions, particularly amongst people aged 60 and over. Exercise may reduce the risk of sight loss from narrowing or hardening of the arteries, high blood pressure and diabetes.
Alcohol - Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to serious health conditions which can have a detrimental effect on your eye health.
Smoking - After ageing, smoking is the biggest risk factor for developing macular degeneration. Smoking also increases your risk of developing cataract. Know your family eye health history - Certain eye conditions can be hereditary, such as glaucoma. When detected early, it can be treated and controlled and therefore it would be very beneficial to know if this condition has been in your family history so you can be tested.
Take care in the sun- Wearing sunglasses reduces the risks of damaging your eyes as a result of the strong ultra violet light from the sun’s rays. Check your glasses have a UV factor and carry the CE mark which indicates they meet the European safety standards. Once you have the right sunglasses, make sure you wear them, especially in the summer when UV levels are at least three times higher than in the winter. Also be sure to wear them when participating in winter sports such as skiing, particularly at high elevations.
Diabetics - People who have diabetes are at risk of developing a condition called diabetic retinopathy and should ensure they have regular eye tests to enable early detection and treatment.
Computer screen breaks - It is very important to take frequent breaks from your computer screen, at least once an hour to allow your eyes to rest. This will help to avoid problems such as eye strain, lack of focus, and headaches. If you have long documents to read, print them off and use to work alongside your computer.
How to make an appointment to see an Eye Doctor
For an appointment to see any medical specialist working in the HSE, including eye doctors, you need to get a referral from your General Practitioner (GP). A GP has knowledge of the specialists in his/her area and can ensure that any important information relating to your medical history is passed to the eye doctor.
While it is advisable to seek a referral from your GP many eye doctors working in the community will give you an appointment directly - you can find contact details for local eye doctors at www.eyedoctors.ie