May is Vision Health Month. Did you know that nearly 75% of vision loss is preventable or treatable? Eye diseases such as glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration if caught early enough are treatable (not curable) to prevent vision loss. There are also many systemic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure) that can cause vision loss. Signs of high cholesterol, heart disease, and thyroid imbalance can also affect the eyes and how they function. The back of the eye is actually the only place in the body that the blood vessels can be directly viewed without being invasive. As a result, eye health is a good indication of overall systemic health. When systemic diseases are not being managed appropriately it can be seen in the back of the eye.
Here are a couple of tips to help keep your eyes healthy:
1. Get regular comprehensive eye examinations.
It is important to get your eyes checked at regular intervals (ie. every 1 to 2 years) to ensure the health of your eyes is being maintained. Vision tests, screenings, or sight tests are not the same. These do not check the health of your eyes at all and at best might provide you with an inaccurate prescription. Your optometrist will be able to determine an accurate prescription and better track changes to your health when this is done in a more timely manner. It’s hard to track when changes happen if the checks are only done every 3-5 years. Also, changes in the back of the eye from eye diseases or systemic diseases are often not things we can see or feel happening. Patients are often not aware of small bleeds or clots in the back of the eye until the effects have cascaded and caused much greater damage. When these small changes are caught early on, it is much easier to treat and prevent from causing further damage. At Wink we take pictures of the back of the eye to ensure we are able to track any changes in the back of the eye year to year.
2. Protect your eyes from the sun.
UV rays do not only age our skin, they age our eyes as well. UV rays can cause premature or accelerate the growth of cataracts, as well as cause benign growths on the front of our eyes – pterygium and pingueculae. For people who are predisposed to developing age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) or have it, UV rays can increase the likelihood of developing ARMD or increase the rate at which it progresses in the eyes. Sunglasses with a UV rating of 400 or are labelled UVA/UVB will provide the protection needed.
3. Contact lens wearers be safe.
This tip is only for contact lens users. Contacts are a great option to being glasses free, but only if they aren’t abused and worn inappropriately. Infections can easily occur when contacts are over-worn, not cleaned properly, or not changed at proper intervals. There are a lot of infections related to water that can occur when contact lenses come in contact with it. Be sure to stick to what your optometrist recommends and to practice clean habits when handling contact lenses. Water (from any source) is always a bad choice when it comes to contact lenses.
4. Eating healthy.
Just like the rest of our body, our eyes need nutrients as well. For the most part, our eyes receive all the nutrients they need from a regular healthy diet. Leafy greens and vibrant colourful vegetables is where we get the carotenoids needed for our eyes. If you’re looking to improve your visual functioning, you can definitely stock up on the spinach though! The extra goods will help your macula function more efficiently, improve your contrast sensitivity, improve how you function in bright conditions, and improve your visual acuity.
We hope that this information is helpful and that it inspires you to take charge of your eye health to make it so you not only see but see well for many years to come.