Our eyes have never been so exposed to all kinds of aggressive external factors as they are today. We spend hours working in front of the screen of the computer or the tablet and then much of our leisure time is used watching television, reading, or checking the screens of our mobile phones.
For this reason, we need to receive the required nutrients to maintain and conserve eyesight in optimum conditions.
Sight is one of the most important senses. Thanks to this sense we can see the objects, we can orient ourselves and we can distinguish light from darkness. Each object is perceived differently, depending on its brightness and color:
On the other hand, the pupil reacts differently depending on whether there is more brightness or more distance. In order for the eyes and their components, such as the cornea, iris, pupil, optic nerve and retina, to function correctly, they need to receive the appropriate nutrients and vitamins, as any small disturbance can have serious consequences and produce all types of degeneration of the ocular function.
Causes of ocular diseases and major sight defects
The health of the eyeball affects the retina, cornea, lens and vitreous humour.
The aqueous humour (the liquid in the eyeball in front of the lens) affects the ability to see properly. However, the eyes are not the only cause of a possible sight defect, as it may be due to other types of reasons, or defective organic functions.
From the age of 20 our vision starts to age and we begin to see less clearly. While this process is usually slow, sometimes the external conditions can accelerate the ageing.
The main causes of this premature ageing can be working or reading with insufficient light, as well as constantly subjecting our eyes to the radiation of the screens of computers or mobile phones. Anyone who works with a computer is more exposed to the radiation emitted by screens. When our eyes start to hurt it is the first warning sign. In addition, work stress can also affect the health of our eyesight.
Another risk factor for vision is working in environments where there is an excess of dust or sand, as well as working in laboratories or industries where there is numerous chemicals.
Tobacco smoke also causes eye fatigue and the sun's UV rays, both in the summer and winter, are an aggression for our eyes. Sunlight emits UV rays that can cause damage to the eyes and skin that surrounds them. The ultraviolet light from the sun produces free radicals, which damage the internal part of the eyes. In addition, chlorine from swimming-pool water also damages our eyes.
How to protect our eyes from UV rays
It is advisable to protect our eyes from the damage cause by UV rays, by using sun glasses, or even some type of hat when the sun is at its most aggressive.
In jobs where it is necessary we must always use protection glasses, and when we swim or dive in pools we must use goggles, to avoid the eye damage from the chlorine. We should always use a correct lighting, to reduce eye fatigue and relax eyes when we start to notice tired, itchy, blinking or watering eyes. Staring blankly is a trick to mitigate vision fatigue.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Periodic ophthalmologic examinations are the best method, thanks to its high efficiency, to detect and treat eye problems and ametropia (myopia, astigmatism and hypermetropia) early.
Pathologies, such as glaucoma or macular degeneration, will have a better prognosis if detected as early as possible and treated early.
Refractive errors that are not corrected result in visual overexertion and difficulty in focusing, headaches and eye fatigue. Going to the ophthalmologist (even if we seem to see well or do not have any visual problems), is the best way to detect alterations and even prevent them in up to a 50% of the cases.
In addition, eyesight examinations help us identify other diseases that manifest through our eyes such as hypertension, diabetes or some brain tumours.
How often should we have eyesight tests?
During the first 24 months of life
Especially if the baby is premature or born underweight for his age, it is very important to carry out an eyesight test in the first weeks of life to detect a possible retinopathy of prematurity. During the first two years of life, an examination should be performed if any of these symptoms are detected, in order to treat the child at an early stage:
Deviation of one or both eyes
Retinal tearing or conjunctivitis
Photophobia or large corneas
Leukocoria or whitish pupil reflex
Congenital nystagmus or rapid eye movements
There are visual problems that are very difficult to act upon and find the best treatment if they are not detected within the first years of the child’s development.
At this stage children begin to recognize colours and shapes accurately and it is the key stage for the child to have their first eye test (if we have not detected any other symptoms beforehand).
The ophthalmologic examination will evaluate visual acuity and determine if any optical correction is needed.
It will be necessary, in many cases, to perform a cycloplegia refraction procedure (this simply entails applying a few drops that dilate the pupil) to know exactly the prescription you will need. Eye movements will be checked in order to detect strabismus, to treat them and thus avoid the appearance of amblyopia.
From 3 to 12 years old
During this period, children begin schooling and annual reviews are required to assess their visual acuity. We must keep in mind that 80% of what the child learns they perceive through their eyes.
Often learning difficulties may be due to visual defects, either because the child needs glasses or because he has binocular vision problems (use of both eyes, which is necessary for 3-dimensional vision) or problems in accommodation-convergence (essential to adjust eyes to the reading position and focus correctly). In these cases visual therapy exercises may be helpful.
From the age of 12 to 20
Teenagers suffer continual changes to their body. It is possible that during this growing period some problems appear or changes in their prescription, therefore, every 2 years eyesight tests should be carried out to discover these changes.
Between 20 and 40 years old
Normally at this age, the prescription remains constant and in many cases, refractive surgery can be considered. People wearing glasses that are considering this surgery must have an annual examination to detect any change in their prescription.
The rest of this group should be tested every 3 years, even if there are no symptoms that indicate visual problems, as it is the only way to detect them in time. Intraocular pressure and the back of the eye should also be evaluated in order to detect possible ocular alterations, such as retinal tears in myopes (which are more prone to retinal detachment).
Examination after 40
From the age of 40 it is advisable to perform an eyesight test every year or couple of years, as from this age onwards the first symptoms of presbyopia or tired eyes (problems to be able to focus closely) start to appear.
It may also be necessary to measure the intraocular pressure and perform a study of the optic nerve as well as the visual field, because in many cases, at this age, glaucoma can occur. An ophthalmologic study will help prevent irreversible loss of vision by detecting and treating elevated intraocular pressure, one of the major symptoms of glaucoma.
Examination after 60
During this period, it is essential to have an eyesight check annually in order to detect the appearance of both cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in time.
Cataracts are one of the most common vision problems for over 60 year olds and can be treated with frequent changes in prescription. Cataracts is a condition associated with the aging of the lens that can be solved with cataract surgery and an intraocular lens implantation, also correcting in many cases, the prescription.
AMD is the leading cause of irreversible sight loss in Western countries in people over 50. The symptoms are blurred central vision, altered form of the images (metamorphopsia) or alterations in the size of the images.
Macular degeneration is detected with a series of tests, depending on the degree of affectation, such as the Amsler Test, Eye Fund scan, Fluorescein Angiography (FA) or Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT).
10 Tips for Eyesight care
1. Perform an ophthalmologic examination periodically
As we have previously mentioned, the best way to diagnose and treat a visual problem is with a test, so we should go to the eye doctor periodically.
2. Diet plays a key role
A balanced diet is essential not only to promote eye health, but to maintain overall good health. We must provide our body with foods that are rich in vitamins A, C and E, minerals such as zinc and selenium, pigments such as lutein and zeaxanthin and Omega 3 acids. These nutrients are very important to maintain the proper function of the retina and to delay the ageing of eye structures. Foods like fruits and vegetables, fish or nuts are key to provide these nutrients.
3. Vitamins and Supplements for Vision
We can always support a healthy diet with food supplements that ensure a correct supply of vitamins for the eyes.
4. Correct eye lubrication
Our current lifestyle means that we spend hours in front of the computer and the mobile or tablet screens, significantly reducing our blinking frequency. In many cases, this can lead to dry eyes. The symptoms of dryness are usually redness, pain and watering eyes.
To prevent dryness, we can use eye drops both for these occasions and for environmental situations such as heating, air conditioning, cigarette smoke, etc. Lubricating the tear film keeps the eye surface transparent.
5. Wear quality sunglasses with UV filter
Not all sunglasses are suitable to protect our eyes from ultraviolet rays. Many of the glasses we find in stores are cheap and with very striking and modern designs, but from the point of view our eyesight health, wearing them can be very damaging.
Sunglasses that are not certified, not only do not protect the eyes, but can increase the damage. Non-certified sunglasses create a dark-chambered effect that dilates the pupil, and because they do not have ultraviolet ray filters, they cause the eye to absorb even more harmful rays from the sun. It is imperative to protect our eyes during the day, even on cloudy days, with certified sunglasses with guaranteed protection.
6. Use glasses suitable for physical activity
If we also perform physical activity outdoors, in addition to wearing sunglasses with certified sun protection, they must protect our eyeballs from possible trauma and damage caused by environmental factors such as wind, water chlorine when swimming, dust and sand.
7. Beware of chemicals
If you accidentally contaminate your eyes with a chemical product or a foreign body, it is advisable to wash immediately with plenty of clean water, even before going to the ophthalmologist. Under no circumstances should you rub your eyes.
8. A good lighting habit
Good lighting is essential to reduce visual fatigue. The human eye is not prepared to look directly into the light but to see with light.
New technologies advance faster than our vision's ability to adapt to these artificial lights. There are certain programs or applications that can be installed on the computer or mobile, that apply a filter and adjust the colour to reduce the blue light and visual fatigue from the screens of these devices. If we are going to read a book, we should place the light source behind us and focussing on the book.
9. Relax eyesight
The eye structures that are in charge of the accommodation process (focus) must be relaxed to reduce visual stress. It is very important to remove the sight from the object (screen, book) that we are focussing on, every 15-20 minutes, for about 10-15 seconds.
10. Control distance
It is very important to keep a correct distance from the objects that we are looking at. We must try to keep a distance of 2 metres from the TV screen and 35-40 cms with regard to the book or screen of the mobile and at least 50cm from the screen of the computer.
Vitamins and Supplements for Eye Healthcare
A healthy diet rich in varied foods, fruits and vegetables contains all the nutrients necessary to protect the health of the eyes. The necessary vitamins for our eyes are: vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin E. In addition to vitamins, it is essential to provide minerals and trace elements.
Vitamin A. Within the vitamins that are important for eyesight, vitamin A plays a very important role in helping to protect eye health and photoreceptor cells. Food products that contain vitamin A are beef liver, carrots, vegetables, potatoes, butter and egg yolk.
Vitamins C and E help fight free radicals. We can find vitamin C in the following foods: parsley, cabbage, broccoli, citrus and peppers. On the other hand, vitamin E is found in vegetable oils, nuts, asparagus and kale.
Carotenoids are a group of vitamins A, which include beta carotenes, lycopene, zeaxanthin and lutein. These vitamins protect against free radical damage, including macular degeneration, cataracts and other age-related eye problems. Carrots, vegetables and tomatoes are rich in carotenoids. We can find lutein in the following foods: spinach and kale. Egg yolks contain lutein, which is a substance that the body can not produce and which, therefore, we must supply to the body through the intake of the foods that contain it.
Polyphenols strengthen eyesight. The foods that contain them are: blueberries, gooseberries, Maqui berries and grape seeds.
Astaxanthin is one of the most powerful antioxidants. It improves vision and helps protect the retina from ultraviolet light damage. Dietary supplements are a good alternative, as they contain all the nutrients that the eyes need to receive daily. With the help of these supplements you can protect your eye health and regenerate your eyesight when problems arise.
Omega-3 fatty acids. Within the eye supplements, Omega-3s play a very important role in preventing diseases of the retina, such as AMD, and for tear production, which keeps the eye moist. Omega-3s are highly recommended among people with dry eye syndrome.
Zinc is a very important mineral for taking care of our eyesight as it is a powerful antioxidant, that can help the body to assimilate vitamin A and protects our eyes from suffering macular degeneration.