The eyes aren't just the windows of the soul – they're also the body's most highly developed sensory organ. Up to 80 percent of the information we receive from the world comes through our eyes, so it's vital to keep them healthy.
How often should I get my eyes tested?
Your eyes should be tested at least every two years, though some people may need sight tests more often – your optician can advise you on this. It's not all about squinting at the eye chart – a standard eye test incorporates various important health checks as well.
For example, an optician can spot early signs of many eye conditions such as glaucoma and macular degeneration, even before you're aware of any symptoms. Often these conditions can be easily treated if detected early. An eye test can also pick up early signs of general health problems such as high cholesterol, diabetes and hypertension.
Always share any family history of eye problems with your optician, so they can be on the look-out for early signs and advise you on preventative steps to help reduce your risk of any hereditary eye conditions.
What else can I do to look after my eyes?
It's an inescapable fact that our vision does change as we get older. For example, presbyopia (which is a difficulty in focusing on nearby objects) is caused by the lens in our eye becoming less flexible, and often starts to develop or accelerate after the age of 40.
However, by taking preventative action now you can reduce your risk of developing certain eye problems later in life. Follow these pointers to help keep your eyes healthy.
- Avoid smoking. Smokers are more likely to develop age-related macular degeneration (the deterioration of the macula, which is the central part of the retina that allows us to perceive fine details) and cataracts than non-smokers
- Keep your alcohol intake within the recommended guidelines. This means sticking to 14 units of alcohol, or less, per week. Drinking heavily is another risk factor for age-related macular degeneration
- Eat healthily. A balanced diet, full of essential nutrients, is important for the wellbeing of your eyes
- Take regular screen breaks. If you spend a lot of time looking at screens, be sure to rest your eyes frequently. Screen use can be harsh on the eyes, as we constantly have to focus and refocus. This doesn't just apply to using a computer for work – it's something to bear in mind if you're a keen gamer, spend lots of time using a smartphone or watch lots of TV, too
- Protect your eyes from sunlight. Guard your eyes against the sun's damaging ultraviolet rays by wearing a wide-brimmed hat or good-quality sunglasses. Look for shades that carry the CE mark or the British Standard BS EN ISO 12312-1:2013, as these deliver a good dose of that all-important UV protection
Eye problems - be vigilant
As with most health conditions, the sooner you detect a problem with your eyes, the easier it is for it to be treated effectively. Symptoms to be on the alert for include:
- Double vision
- Dry eyes
- Blurry vision
- Neck/ shoulder pain
If you experience any of these symptoms - or have any other concerns about your eyes - always see your optician or Doctor for advice.