Our eyesight is often something we take for granted, until something is wrong.
Dry eyes, headaches and blurred vision are just some of the symptoms of an eye problem, according to experts.
Here, Dr Jørn Slot Jørgensen, from Laser Eye Clinic London, and Evelyn Mensah, Consultant Ophthalmologist and Eye Surgeon at Central Middlesex Hospital, share their advice on the ways you could inadvertently put yourself at risk.
Dry eyes, headaches and blurred vision are just some of the symptoms of an eye problem, according to experts
Skip vision tests
People should have an eye exam every two years, or more frequently if their optometrist recommends it.
Dr Jørgensen said: “Failing to schedule regular eye exams can lead to undiagnosed eye diseases.”
‘Diseases such as glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration often develop without noticeable symptoms in their early stages.
“Early detection through eye testing is crucial for effective treatment and vision preservation.”
Routine eye exams can also detect early signs of underlying systemic conditions, such as diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.
Prolonged screen time
The widespread use of digital devices such as laptops, tablets and smartphones has led to long periods of screen time, both for work and leisure.
“This can lead to digital eye strain, characterized by symptoms such as dry eyes, headaches and blurred vision,” says Dr. Jørgensen.
Mensah recommended the 20-20-2 rule.
‘This means that every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Also, remember to blink when using a screen to prevent your eyes from drying out,’ she said.
Do not wear sunglasses with UV protection
Failure to wear sunglasses with adequate UV protection can result in harmful exposure to UV radiation.
This can contribute to diseases such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), Dr. Jørgensen warned.
He said: “Protecting the eyes from UV rays, especially in sunny conditions, is essential to preserving long-term eye health.”
Mensah says UV exposure can also increase the development of growths on the surface of the eyes called pterygium.
He warned: “Not all sunglasses filter UV light, so make sure they are CE marked, UV 400 or British Standard.” And never look directly at the sun because this can cause a sunburn on the macula which can lead to permanent vision loss.’
Poor diet and lack of nutrients.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet could help reduce the risk of sight-threatening eye diseases, such as AMD, which affects central vision.
Mensah explains that the macula (part of the retina that processes what you see directly in front of you) contains natural pigments like lutein and zeaxanthin found in dark green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale.
“Vitamins A, C and E are also helpful, so eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day,” she advises.
“And if you have a family history of AMD, talk to your primary care doctor about taking nutritional supplements.”
Dr Jørgensen added: “A poor diet that lacks essential nutrients such as vitamins A, C and E, as well as minerals such as zinc, can damage eye health, as these nutrients are vital for vision and function. ocular in general.
“To maintain healthy eyes, it is essential to consume a balanced diet rich in leafy greens, colorful fruits and vegetables, and sources of omega-3s.”
If you are a smoker, quitting smoking is not only beneficial for your overall health but also for your eyesight.
Ms Mensah said: “Smoking cessation is a modifiable factor that can reduce the risk of developing certain eye diseases such as AMD and cataracts.”
He recommended asking your GP for help if you want to quit smoking, who will have many helpful resources available.
Do not wear prescription glasses
There is a misconception that wearing prescription glasses worsens your eyesight.
“This notion is inaccurate,” he stresses.
‘The main reason to wear prescription glasses is simply because you need them. If you don’t use them, you risk getting headaches.’
“Working or reading in poorly lit areas can make your eyes work harder, leading to eye strain, discomfort, and worse vision,” says Dr. Jørgensen.
He notes that good lighting, often called “task lighting,” is vital to creating comfortable conditions for reading and working.