Taking proper care of your eyes to avoid vision loss
Imagine not being able to see your nearest and dearest, watch your favourite sporting team or performer, navigate daily life or even read these very words with ease.
It’s important to notice changes in your vision.
Our sight is something we perhaps take for granted, yet its loss or deterioration would have a grave impact on our life.
Eye specialists assess our eyes from the front of the eyeball — looking for refractive error which can be corrected with glasses and contact lenses — through to the back of the eye, where there are four main diseases which cause problems in Australia: glaucoma, cataracts, diabetic eye disease and macular degeneration.
Each of these has the potential to cause blindness. And while the risk for all four increases with age, glaucoma and cataracts can occur in childhood, albeit less commonly.
Lions Eye Institute ophthalmologist Dr Hessom Razavi said specialists also saw people in their 20s or younger with bad diabetic eye disease.
“Getting diabetic eye disease is strongly linked to how long you have had diabetes for,” Dr Razavi said.
“But people have power over what happens to their eyes, there is a lot they can control to protect their eyes in the long term and nutrition is number one.”
A study involving Portuguese people found a Mediterranean diet helped protect against diabetic eye disease and macular degeneration. That means loading up on fruit and vegies, moderate amounts of lean meat and fish, and small amounts of red wine and dark chocolate.
Adults who notice a problem with their eyes are advised to see their GP or a specialist and for those over 40, two-yearly screening is recommended.
Dr Razavi said vigilance was even more important with children because the human brain and visual system was only considered “plastic”, meaning there was potential for improvement, until about the age of nine.
“Once they are over seven, eight, or nine even if you give the right glasses and treatment often the vision never reaches its full potential again,” Dr Razavi warned.
This applies to both myopia (short sightedness), which is on the rise in children at an earlier age, and lazy eyes. Mums and dads who notice their child’s eye turning in or out, particularly at the end of the day when tired, should get the youngster promptly assessed.
Another issue is red eyes in photos. If one eye is red and the other is dull it’s important to see an eye specialist to rule out cataracts or a lump in the eye.
Myopia in kids
Some UV light and looking into the distance is important for normal eye development.
It’s recommended kids spend 1½ hours outside every day to protect against short-sightedness.
Blindness in Australia
Half-a-million Australians are blind or visually impaired.
The leading cause in non-indigenous people is macular degeneration, in indigenous people the No. 1 cause is diabetic eye disease.
Written by: Narelle McGrath