The Eye. One of nature’s most beautiful and complex achievements.
We will not focus too much on the technical functionality and workings of the eye, but you should know that the human eye is a marvel. A small, almost perfectly spherical organ that sits in your skull and allows you to see our beautiful world in all its glory. Bright purple flowers, a pristine blue sky, the faces of your loved ones, even this article you are reading right now. All made possible by your eyes.
We have all heard that the eyes are the windows to the soul, and that may be true in some way. But I like to think that the eyes are our windows to the world. And that is why it is so important to take care of them properly.
According to the World Health Organization, the number of people suffering from visual impairment and blindness globally continues to rise year after year. Even though the World Health Organisation estimates that about 50% of visual impairments and 80% of blindness is avoidable through prevention or treatment. Many people wait too long to seek professional help concerning vision problems they may experience that not only impacts their quality of life but could also put them at a severe risk of blindness. In a survey by Statistics South Africa, it has been stated that approximately 9.3% of the total population used eyeglasses as a form of corrective device, and a further 10.4% of the population have a seeing or sight disability. Most of these eye problems are avoidable, if only treated proactively.
Let us look at some signs that you must pay attention to and may need to contact your optometrist about.
Blurred vision is a lack of sharpness of vision resulting in the inability to see fine detail. Blurred vision can result from problems like near-sightedness, far-sightedness, presbyopia, or astigmatism. Usually these symptoms can be improved with corrective lenses (eyeglasses) or in more severe cases it may signal the presence of eye disease. Blurred vision can also be an indicator of other health problems, such as high blood pressure or diabetes.
If you suddenly develop blurred vision, experience severe symptoms, experience eye pain, lose part of your field of vision or have an immune disorder, you should immediately seek help from your health professional like a doctor or optometrist.
Halos are bright circles that surround a light source, like headlights or lamps. Glare is light that enters your eye and interferes with your vision, like reflections from the sun on a window or screen.
They can be extremely uncomfortable or may result in incapability to navigate or drive.
Halos can be indicators of your eye health. Seeing halos around lights could mean that you are developing a serious eye disorder such as cataracts or glaucoma. If you constantly experience halos, you should seek advice from your health professional.
Every person has a natural blind spot, which there is no need to worry about, unless you start noticing eye problems. You can temporarily lose your vision, totally or partially, due to another condition. If you experience blind spots that impair your normal day-to-day life or experience sudden or partial blindness you should seek help from your doctor immediately.
Like we said earlier, almost 80% of vision loss or blindness is avoidable, which is why it is important to pay attention to any of these symptoms and act proactively by going for an eye test at least once a year.
Now we can have a look at some of the easy habits you can adopt, to ensure your eyes stay healthy.
A well-balanced diet
Almost all good aspects of health start with what you put into your body. Eye health is no exception. Nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, lutein, zinc, and vitamins C and E might help ward off age-related vision problems like macular degeneration and cataracts. You can eat more oily fish, vegetables, nuts and seeds or you can consider a high-quality omega-3 supplement. A well-balanced diet also helps you stay at a healthy weight. This can lower your odds of obesity and other related diseases like type 2 diabetes, which is the leading cause of blindness in adults. You can also go ahead and eat more foods high in antioxidants like fresh fruits and veggies, berries (like strawberries or cranberries) or leafy greens, like spinach, all do wonders for your eye health.
The right pair of shades will help protect your eyes from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. Too much UV exposure boosts your chances of cataracts and macular degeneration. Choose a pair that blocks 99% to 100% of UVA and UVB rays. Wraparound lenses help protect your eyes from the side. Polarized lenses reduce glare while you drive, but do not necessarily offer added protection. If you wear contact lenses, some offer UV protection however it is still a good idea to wear sunglasses for an extra layer.
Smoking is one of the biggest culprits when it comes to eye health. It makes you more prone to developing cataracts, damages your optic nerve, and can cause macular degeneration, among many other medical problems. Smoking causes dry eyes as well as other eye diseases such as macular degeneration, uveitis, and diabetic retinopathy. Smokers are also much more likely to go blind compared to non-smokers.
Get enough sleep
A lack of sleep can lead to eye strain and eye fatigue. To replenish themselves and function well throughout the day, our eyes need at least five hours of sleep per night to stay in good health. The longer you go without enough sleep, the more you might notice symptoms like eye strain, twitchy eyelids, and dry eye. If you have trouble sleeping, and this causes eye health problems for you, it is best to give your doctor a visit.
Visit your eye doctor regularly
Everyone needs to go for regular eye exam at least once a year, even young children. It helps protect your vision and detect problems early on. Eye exams can find diseases, like glaucoma, that have no symptoms, so It is important to spot them early on, when they are easier to treat and have a higher chance of being cured completely.
These are just some of the small changes you can make to your everyday life to help keep your eyes in tip-top shape. In addition to adopting healthy eating habits, healthy sleeping habits and regular trips to your optometrist, there are many more things you can do to help your eyes retain their health for as long as possible.
It is beneficial to adopt some additional eye exercises as part of your daily routine and lifestyle, especially in today’s world, where we spend most of our time looking at computer, TV and smartphone screens
On average, the normal adult spends a few hours a day glued to a screen, whether it be for work, entertainment, or browsing social media apps. Our eyes are not made to shallow focus like that for such prolonged periods of time.
Thus, you can start doing eye exercises every day, such as the very simple 20/20 rule; after 20 minutes of screen time, rest your eyes and focus on an object 20 meters away, for about 20 seconds, then return to work. This helps your eye keep its depth perception and reduces strain caused by blue light from electronic screens.
Focus on your blinking. When working on a computer screen, or watching a film on TV, we blink less. This can cause your eyes to get dried out or cause a major headache in some people. If you notice your eyes are dry or your head is starting to hurt, rather take a break from the screen, rest your eyes for a couple of seconds before returning to a normal blinking rate.
If you already wear corrective lenses like contact lenses or glasses, it is important to still do eye exercises and make sure that your eyes are not unnecessarily strained.
Every now and then, you can remove your glasses, look at your thumb close to your face, and then look at an object across the room. This helps your eye relax.
If you wear contact lenses it is extremely important to insert them correctly and take them out when you need to. It is also important to never sleep with your contact lenses still in.
And there you have it. Some basic eye care guidelines to celebrate your eyes. Remember, that when you stop reading this, to go sit outside for a while and not look at a screen for a few minutes.
And remember that eye care is an important part of your overall health. The world as you see it, can be determined by two small spheres in your skull. And whether they be brown, blue, green, grey, light, or dark, your eyes are beautiful and deserve love and care.