Are you a studious pupil when it comes to eye health?
Your eyes are not just the window to your soul, they're also the doorway to good health.
Your eyes are not just the window to your soul, they’re also the doorway to good health. Not only can regular sight tests detect eye diseases or conditions in their earliest, most treatable stage, they can also pick up on a range of non-eye related conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
‘We advise most people to get their eyes checked at least every two years,’ said Trevor Rowley, owner of Viewpoint in York (01904 667000; viewpoint.co.uk). ‘This is not just to keep an eye on vision but also to make sure we are aware of any other underlying health issues.
‘Our routine eye examinations use pioneering equipment selected to be the most advanced available. This means we can identify patients with health issues that would otherwise prove impossible to detect without our diagnostic facilities.’
As well as detecting a range of eye diseases, including cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration, routine eye examinations can also spot other serious health issues by looking at the blood vessels in the eye and the retina.
Some of the conditions that can be picked up include: high blood pressure (burst blood vessels at the back of the eye are an indication); high cholesterol (cholesterol can collect in the blood vessels of the retina, creating a small yellow blockage or a thin white line circling the iris); diabetes (too much sugar in the blood can damage blood vessels in the retina); brain tumours (swelling of the optic nerve leaves them looking larger and pale, but early diagnosis can be life-saving); and stroke (tiny clots or pieces of cholesterol moving through blood vessels in the retina highlight if a patient might have had a minor stroke and mean a major stroke could be prevented).
Viewpoint has some of the most state-of-the-art equipment in the UK, including the wavefront aberrometer, which is used to examine the front of the eye, and the optical coherent tomographer, which provides 3D images of the back of the eye with a full colour graph and other diagnostic information.
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But, of course, prevention is even better than diagnosis. So what lifestyle choices should you make and what foods should you eat if you want to make a positive impact on the health of your eyes?
‘Eating healthily isn’t just about keeping your body in good shape, it can also help to keep your eyes in good condition and make people less likely to develop eye conditions such as age-related macular degeneration,’ said Chris Worsman, senior optometrist at Viewpoint.
This is a painless yet damaging condition that results in loss of central vision including reading and face recognition. It’s one of the most common causes of poor sight and is the leading cause of blindness in the over-60s. There is no cure but it can be prevented or at least delayed.Studies have shown that vitamins of the antioxidant group – vitamins A, C, E, zinc and lutein – can slow it down. All are beneficial to eye health, helping to reduce the risk of disease, and are readily available in many foods.
Eggs and leafy green vegetables like spinach, broccoli and kale are rich sources of lutein, which protects the eyes by forming pigment in the macular to filter out harmful blue light wavelengths. The more pigment your eyes contain, the less likely they are to develop AMD.
The body does not naturally generate lutein so you need to ensure the foods you eat contain it.
Carrots provide vitamin A, which helps keep the surface of the eye and eyelids healthy, and beta carotene, an antioxidant that protects the cells of your eyes from free-radical damage due to pollution and excess sun exposure.
Oily Fish contains omega-3 fats, which help lower the risk of conditions like AMD and glaucoma. Nuts and seeds contain zinc, which helps with retina function. And fruit is a great all-rounder, providing vitamins C, A and E and beta carotene.
There are also small lifestyle changes you can make that can have a significant impact on eye health. Stopping smoking can dramatically decrease your risk of macular degeneration and adopting a healthier diet can slow down the process of optical ageing diseases.
‘Taking this advice and having regular sight tests can prevent the onset of damaging eye conditions,’ said Chris. ‘Which means, of course, that you will be looking at a much brighter future.’