When it comes to how to take care of your eye health we sure have been told a lot of different things. Like the one where your mum told you if you sit to close to the telly you’ll get square eyes? False. All those times you kept reading your book under the doona after lights out? It probably didn’t ruin your eyesight. The one about eating carrots improving your eyesight? Actually that one is true, carrots have loads of vitamin C, which is good for your eyes.
So what can we be doing to look after our eye health? For starters, as per any health regime, what we eat matters. Research suggests that foods high in nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, lutein, zinc and vitamins V and E can help to ward off vision problems brought on by age such as macular degeneration and cataracts. So stock up on leafy greens, oily fishes, eggs, nuts and oranges.
Cutting out smoking, wearing polarised sunglasses outside, getting your eyes tested regularly and taking breaks from all the screens you probably spend your day staring at are also important things to do for your eye health.
For further advice and to discuss how science and technology is changing the way we think about eye health – and improving life for the blind and vision-challenged enormously – we asked Stefan Meyer, optical dispenser at clearly.com.au.
What’s the most important thing we can do to look after our eye health?
- Have your eyes checked on a regular basis by an eye care practitioner who can advise you on what approach to take with any health issues.
- Do not wear your contact lenses while swimming, especially in hot baths, lakes and so on. Bacteria and amoeba picked up in water can sometimes lead to serious eye infections if not treated. It is rare, however, it can happen.
- Wear protective eyewear when required and appropriate. Industrial situations, outdoor sports, hobby workshops.
- Do not overwear contact lenses. Lenses which have not been replaced regularly can increase the risks of allergic, inflammatory and infectious events.
- Do not wear spectacles prescribed for someone else.
- Wear sunglasses while outside especially in high UV conditions.
What are the common eye mistakes we make?
As far as contact lenses are concerned, not replacing contact lenses frequently enough or not washing your hands when inserting and removing lenses. Generally, if there is any reduction in your vision, pain or unusual ocular redness, have your eyes checked by an optometrist or ophthalmologist.
How has technology and science developed to protect our eyes? What does the future hold when it comes to optical health?
Stem cell therapy to cure certain types of corneal disorders
Health professionals can use specially designed smartphone camera attachments and apps to take retinal images of patients in remote locations
New use for HIV medications Researchers found that drugs most often used to treat HIV and AIDS may also help with a leading cause of blindness, age-related macular degeneration. These drugs have currently been tested only on mice, but may one day be used on humans.
3-D Printing and your eyes
A prosthetic eye can cost $5,000 and take hours to mould and hand paint. Even then, it may not look quite right. 3-D printing has brought the cost for a prosthetic to as low as $150. The new technology also allows for precise colour matching with the existing eye.
Gene therapy might restore sight
Researchers placed a gene into the retinas of blind mice that allowed the animals to tell whether lights were flashing. They added a chemical “switch” to help brain cells respond to light. This technique also helped restore sight in dogs. Researchers are working to make this work in humans one day.
Smartphones bring the doctor’s office to you
Products currently on the market are improving access to eye care worldwide. Peek and D-eye each pair a small lens attachment with an app that turns a smartphone into a portable exam tool. They allow doctors to check eyes in remote locations. The iExaminer System attaches to an iPhone with the device your practitioner uses to look into your eyes. They can take detailed images, even share them with other experts if required.
Electronic implant to sense glaucoma pressure
Patients with glaucoma have pressure checks at the doctor’s office. High levels of pressure can damage your optic nerve and lead to blindness. Implanting an electronic sensor in your eye will help track pressure changes without a visit to your practitioner. A wireless gadget, now under development, will send data to a handheld device or a smartphone and send the information directly to your practitioner.