“For my part, I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.”
The above words from the famed Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh highlight the importance of sight as an inspiration to a genius. But what about the rest of us mere mortals? We use our eyes every single day to navigate the world around us, so keeping our eyes in top condition is crucial. As the clocks go back and the evenings get darker earlier, join us as we take a look at some of the main reasons why eye health is important.
Why is good eye health important?
Let’s be clear: the importance of eye health cannot be understated. From detecting eye diseases to good brain health, we explore the benefits of eye checks.
Regular checks can detect eye diseases
An eye specialist (also called an optometrist) is trained to detect issues and problems with your eyes. A routine check-up can uncover eye conditions such as glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration. It may also be able to pick up the early signs of cataracts.
Eye tests can identify other health problems early on
Regular eye check-ups can also help to identify wider health problems. These include:
- high blood pressure
- diabetic retinopathy
- heart disease
- brain tumours
- thyroid disease
- skin cancer
Healthy eyes are linked to healthy brains
The brain and eyes are intrinsically linked within the human body. Our brains are instrumental to interpreting the world around us through our vision so it’s no surprise to hear that getting the right nutrients can boost your eye health. These nutrients include lutein and zeaxanthin which are found in green leafy vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, kale, peas, and lettuce. It can also be found in egg yolk.
Good eye health can protect you from vision loss
Maintaining a diet rich in leafy greens and vegetables is key to keeping your eyes healthy. Getting plenty of lutein and zeaxanthin can help you to avoid vision problems, some of which can lead to total vision loss. Alongside a healthy diet, regular sight tests can also help detect signs of eye problems.
Clear vision can improve your quality of life
It sounds fairly obvious but being able to see well is a major plus when it comes to everyday life. It’s estimated that over two million people in the UK are currently living with some form of visual impairment. This means that more than two million people are potentially unable to carry out everyday activities, relying on help from care workers or friends and family. This number is expected to rise to around four million by 2050*.
Good eye care protects your eyes from injury
It may seem evident but practising good eye care can go a long way to preventing injury. For example, making sure to wear sunglasses when outside in sharp sunlight. And while we’re talking about the sun, your mother was right: you should never look directly at it! If you work on a building site, near open flames, or in a laboratory, wearing safety goggles will help prevent your eyes from getting damaged by hazardous materials.
Sharp vision keeps you safe
Imagine driving a car with vision like this:
You’d struggle to see the steering wheel and controls in front of you, let alone the other cars on the road. Keeping your vision in tip-top condition can not only keep you safe but people around you. Be sure to book regular eye tests to help detect early signs of vision problems.
Getting eye problems treated early prevents them from worsening
It isn’t rocket science: ensuring you attend regular eye check-ups will help to detect potential issues. Saving that, if you haven’t had regular eye appointments, it isn’t too late. Booking yourself in at your local opticians could save you from a long, painful, and potentially debilitating experience of visual impairment.
“I’d been noticing driving in the dark to be more of an issue. With glare from oncoming traffic and the reflective road signs, I’d get eye strain from concentrating.”Shane Hallatt, cataract patient at Practice Plus Group Hospital, Shepton Mallet
How to improve eye health and take care of your eyes
So, we’ve looked at why good eye health is so important. Now it’s time to explore how you can keep those eyes healthy and put these learnings into practice.
Maintain a healthy diet
It probably won’t come as much of a surprise to hear that maintaining a healthy diet can do wonders for not only your eyes, but your health in general.
Best foods for eye health
Just as with bone and joint health, omega-3 and fatty acids are extremely beneficial for your eye health. Fish such as salmon, mackerel, and herring are very high in omega-3. You can also find it in walnuts and kidney beans.
Best supplements and vitamins for eye health
When searching for the best vitamin supplements, you should look for anything containing the following:
- lutein and zeaxanthin
- vitamin A
- vitamin E
- vitamin C
Wear sunglasses and eye protection
Remember what your mother told you about not looking directly at the sun? Well, it turns out she was right. Be sure to wear sunglasses whenever you’re outside in sharp sunlight. If you work on a building site, near open flames, or in a laboratory, wearing safety goggles will help prevent your eyes from getting damaged by hazardous materials.
Avoid touching your eyes
Even if you wash your hands hundreds of times a day, it’s a good idea to refrain from touching your eyes too much. Rubbing your eyes excessively can not only damage them, it can also lead to infections like pink eye and conjunctivitis.
Limit screen time
Nowadays screens are everywhere. They are a constant source of information designed to capture and hold our attention. Hours can easily fly by in front of your TV or laptop without you realising the potential damage you’re doing to your eyes. Which is why it’s important to introduce regular breaks. Opticians recommend looking away from your screen for 20 seconds after every 20 minutes of continuous screen time. This relaxes the muscles in the eye that help you focus, allowing them time to recover before you resume work. As a general rule, you should try to limit your leisure screen time (i.e. the time you spend in front of a screen outside of work) to two hours a day.
Get regular eye exams
We’ve mentioned it before but it’s a message worth repeating: be sure to attend regular eye exams. These can help detect the early signs of eye problems such as glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, and cataracts.
Keep your eyes hydrated
While dry eyes aren’t necessarily a sign of anything serious, it is a good idea to keep them hydrated. You can do this by:
- taking regular breaks from screens if you work on a computer
- not smoking or drinking alcohol to excess
- ensuring your computer screen is just below eye level
- not spending too much time in air conditioned rooms.
As well as having lots of health benefits, keeping yourself hydrated is also good for your eyes. If you’re dehydrated, you may experience stinging, itchy eyes.
Update your glasses or contact lenses
Another benefit to attending regular eye exams is the opportunity for your optician to update your prescriptions. If you wear glasses or contact lenses but find yourself straining to read or see things, you could be damaging your eyes. An eye exam should reveal whether your prescription needs to change. The College of Optometrists recommends that most people should have an eye examination at least every two years.
As well as generally being bad for your health, smoking is particularly damaging to your eyes. There is a scientifically proven link between smoking and the development of cataracts and other eye conditions. Smoking can also cause dry eyes, making them itchy and irritable.
Know your family health history
If your family has a history of eye conditions, it could put you at a higher risk of developing one yourself. Next time you have a family reunion, it may be a good idea to ask your relatives whether your ancestors suffered from eye diseases.
Don’t wait to treat eye health problems
Alongside keeping your eyes healthy, one of the main messages of this article is to attend regular eye exams. If you suspect you have an eye condition, don’t be tempted to ignore it. Early detection of eye diseases could be the difference between being able to see and losing your sight entirely. At Practice Plus Group, our eye specialists can diagnose your condition within a couple of weeks of your booking. If you need eye surgery, the maximum time you’ll have to wait will be just four weeks.