Smoking exposes your eyes to high levels of oxidative stress. While the connection has not been clearly identified, it is known that smoking increases your risk for a variety of health conditions affecting the eye.
Exercise improves blood circulation, which improves oxygen levels to the eyes and the removal of toxins.
It’s tough to fit everything into your schedule, but you’ll feel the difference when you get the sleep you need. You’ll look great, you’ll perform better at work and on the go - and good rest will support the health of your eyes.
Put in your contacts before applying your make-up, to avoid contaminating your lenses with the residue from foundation or powder on your fingers. Of course, it’s also much easier to apply your make-up when you can see clearly!
Lotions, powders and gels with bits of glitter can get into your eyes and cause irritation and problems with your contact lenses. After applying glittery gel, be careful not to touch your eyes - and wash the glitter off your hands right away.
You inherit a lot of things from your family. And when it comes to your body, everything you inherit is carried in your genes – the tiny bundles of DNA that tell your cells how to develop and grow. These genes can play a role in certain eye diseases ^1-2-3^.
This is why it’s important to know about any eye conditions experienced by your parents, your siblings, and even your grandparents. By telling your optometrist about this family history, they will have a better idea of whether you are at greater risk of inheriting the same condition. Further tests and advice can then be provided if necessary. The sooner you tell your optometrist the better, as treatment and/or lifestyle changes can help delay or even prevent the onset of certain conditions.
Eye conditions that can be inherited include glaucoma^2^. cataract^1^, and Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD)^3^. In addition to these, genetic conditions that affect other parts of the body can have an impact on the eyes. For example, diabetes (type 1 and type 2)^4^, if not properly managed, can lead to eye problems such as blurred vision, cataracts, glaucoma and diabetic eye disease, where damage occurs to the retina^5^.
Out of all the digital devices available to us, the smartphone is by far the fastest growing in popularity, leaping from 52% in 2012 to 81% penetration in the UK in 2016^6^. Aptly named, the smartphone is becoming increasingly hard to live without.
So where we used alarm clocks for waking, PC’s for work, communication and information, cameras for photos, video cameras for videos, books for reading, separate calculators, remote controls, music players…we can now perform all these functions from one handy device!
And even though we are almost at peak penetration in the UK^6^, technology is still improving so that the speed, functionality and security of the smartphone continues to get better with time.
Other technology, such as laptops, tablets, smart TV’s, TV streaming devices, fitness bands and smart watches are also on the increase, albeit not as fast as the rise of the smartphone. This upturn in multiple digital device usage is seen across all ages within the population. According to the Office of National Statistics, in 2016, there were numerous devices used to access the internet in the UK^7^.
Online activities analysed by age group shows sending or receiving emails and finding information on goods and services were the top 2 activities carried out by all age groups over 35. Those aged 35 to 44 reported highest use of email at 90%, while 53% of the oldest age group (those aged 65 and over) used email. Social networking is widespread in all age groups, up to and including those aged 55 to 64, where 51% of adults reported use^7^.
So what does this all mean for our eyes, minds and bodies as we view screens at an unprecedented scale?
A good night’s sleep allows our bodies to rest and recuperate. According to the National Sleep Foundation, a good quality and quantity of sleep lets the brain strengthen and build cell pathways which can help us concentrate better and react quicker when we’re awake. By contrast, poor quality sleep can lead to a lack of concentration, affect memory and compromise on good decision making^8^.
Studies show that the use of technology prior to sleep, particularly in teenagers and adolescents, has negative consequences on nighttime sleep and on daytime function^9^.
A key factor in how human sleep is regulated is exposure to light or to darkness^10^. Melatonin is a hormone (produced by the pineal gland in the brain) that is controlled by light exposure. We produce more when it is dark which helps us feel sleepy and less when it is light to help us feel alert and active. Therefore, at night time, it is better to avoid bright screens and late night television. It is also recommended to sleep in a darkened room and keep electronic devices that emit light covered up^10^.
Two of the most common places for eye injuries to occur are home and work. Often, people in industrial settings are susceptible to projectiles that can injure the eye. And at home, many household cleaners can cause injury to the eyes – in addition to various home improvement projects that have a potential for danger. The best advice we can give is to use your common sense – if you’re working on a project that can cause harm to your eyes, make sure you’re safe with the proper protective eyewear.
Goggles and shields do much more than protect your eyes from injury. Many goggles or safety glasses come with tints to reduce sun glare, light filtering capabilities that make it easier to see certain colors (like yellow tennis balls), and polycarbonate lenses that stand up to sudden, sharp impact. Choose the right goggles or shield for your sport.
To be competitive on the playing field you need peak performance from your entire body – and your eyes are no exception. Sports vision is "fullscope," and primary eye care can help you optimize these three key visual skills:
• Contrast Sensitivity lets you see fine details from a distance – like the subtle contours of a golf course
• Dynamic Visual Acuity keeps your vision as clear when you're running as when you're standing, so you can see every obstacle
• Focus Flexibility keeps a ball in sharp focus as it moves toward or away from you
Contact lenses are ideal for athletes. They offer a more natural vision correction option than glasses. Contact lenses can increase peripheral vision. You can wear protective eyewear over them – such as goggles or sunglasses. And you can quit worrying about broken frames or lenses. Plus, contact lenses don't fog up, slide down, or fall off. That adds up to better vision when it counts most.
To protect your eyes from harmful ultraviolet (UV) light, choose sunglasses with both UVA and UVB protection. Also, wearing a hat with a brim will greatly reduce the amount of UV radiation slipping around the side of your sunglasses. Sunglasses not only look good, they’re good for you. Protect yourself from harmful UV rays today to help prevent damage tomorrow.
Several nutrients, such as Zinc and DHA* (an Omega-3 fatty acid) each play a key role in the maintenance of eye health, so a healthy, balanced diet is important.
For example, research has shown that zinc is important in cell metabolism and is found in high levels in eye tissue, especially the retina11. Meanwhile, omega-3 fatty acids can help support a healthy tear film, which is vital to prevent or help manage dry eyes^12^.
Lutein and Zeaxanthin are both components of the macula, found in the back of the eye. The macula is responsible for helping you see things directly in front of you and for close activities like reading^13^.
While antioxidants such as vitamins C and E aren’t specifically linked to the health of our eyes, they are important nutrients to have in your diet as they help to protect cells from oxidative damage. Tissues of the eye are vulnerable to oxidative stress, a process where there is an imbalance between the production of reactive oxygen species (free radicals) and antioxidant defence systems which are naturally present in the eye^14^. Oxidation is a normal part of ageing but certain behaviours such as smoking can speed up the process. The process is known as oxidative stress or damage.
In order to ensure these nutrients are part of your diet, choose foods rich in antioxidants such as vitamins C and E; for example leafy, green vegetables, nuts and fish. Plenty of fruit and veg will also ensure you have sources of carotenoids in your diet. Oily fish contain essential omega-3 fatty acids, while zinc is found in shellfish, meat, dairy foods and bread.
Avoid junk food – a diet high in fat can cause deposits in the arteries that restrict blood flow. The eyes are especially sensitive to this, given the small size of the blood vessels that feed them.
Some people need to be particularly careful about getting the right nutrients for their eye health. If you have diabetes, this can affect your eyes in a number of ways, from increasing your risk of cataracts to diabetic retinopathy, due to the changes in blood sugar levels affecting the lens in your eye^15^.
Eye conditions such as AMD, glaucoma and cataracts are inherited, so if your parents or grandparents had any of these conditions, you are more likely to be at risk^16,17^.
Ask most people which foods are good for your eyes and they might say carrots, but they’d probably struggle to name any others. And it’s unlikely they’d know why carrots are meant to be good for your eyes either – often, it’s just something adults say to fussy eaters.
The role it plays
Contributes to the maintenance of normal vision
Sweet potatoes, carrots, dark leafy greens like kale or spinach, dried apricots, squash
Our bodies convert beta-carotene into Vitamin A
Spinach, broccoli, peppers, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, carrots, squash
Powerful antioxidant which helps form and maintain connective tissue, including collagen found in the cornea
Citrus fruits, kiwi, cherries, blackcurrants, pineapple, strawberry, kale, sweet red peppers
Contributes to the protection of cells from oxidative stress
Sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, avocados, wholegrains
A mineral that helps the body absorb and convert vitamin A, as well as contributing to the maintenance of normal vision.
Eggs, turkey, beef, oysters, soybeans, wheat germ, grains, black eyed peas, spinach
Lutein and zeaxanthin
Both components of the macula, found at the back of the eye.
Kale, spinach, basil, salad greens, broccoli, squash, asparagus
You can get these nutrients from a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of brightly coloured fruit and vegetables (particularly green, leafy ones)^18^.
Image – courtesy of ONS
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