Very occasionally, someone will write to me and ask if I am intentionally referencing books in these blogs. It gives me great pleasure to say that I am indeed! Reading is one of my great joys in life (aside from pharmacy, obviously). It is for this reason, I am very conscious of my eye health, because despite what Audible.com promises, nothing replaces sitting down and reading a good book, feeling the paper between your fingers, and watching as the author crafts a world made entirely of words.
If you lose your vision, you lose access to these worlds. Today, I am going to track through some of the best ways to keep your eyes fighting fit.
Firstly, watch your diet. Foods rich in antioxidants will help keep your eyesight from deteriorating prematurely. Keep your eyes peeled (pardon the pun) for those leafy greens: kale, spinach, broccoli, brussel sprouts, peas. These all contain lutein and zeaxanthin, which can also be found in eggs or corn. Similarly, salmon and sardines are rich in fatty acids which can help your peepers from faltering. If your diet is high in sugars and fats, your risk of diabetes is greater, which in turn renders you more susceptible to glaucoma. You can see it coming a mile away.
Secondly, wear sunglasses whenever you are outside, whether it is glarey or not. Prolonged exposure to the sun drastically increases your risk of cataracts or macular degeneration. I often have customers showing me their Raybans or aviators, and while fashionable, are about as helpful as wearing a raincoat while scuba diving. I would recommend picking up something that is polarised, with 100% protection against UV-A and UV-B radiation. The Cancer Council has a range of sunglasses which are both effective and affordable. Believe it or not, some of them actually look indistinguishable from Raybans.
Thirdly, cut the cigarettes. I’m not sure if you’re picking a trend in my writing, but this seems to come up most times I talk about eliminating risky behaviours. Smoking can damage the optic nerve and cause macular degeneration or cataracts. I understand the difficulty. Some people need to seek professional help because quitting cold turkey has never worked in the past. Call 13 QUIT to talk to a counsellor who can help you through the process.
Fourthly, you need to deal with contagious eye diseases if and when they come up, rather than waiting for it to get better. Dipping back into my love of books for a second, in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Viktor Krum successfully evades a dragon by using the (creatively named) conjunctivitis curse. It swells up the opponents eyes so that they cannot see until a remedy is administered. Well, conjunctivitis is not just a magical spell in a fantasy novel. It is an inflammation of your conjunctiva – that part of your eye which produces lubrication in the form of tears or mucus.
Essentially, it comes in two forms. Firstly, viral. The same kind of virus that causes the common cold can spread to your eye and cause an intense itching or burning. You might emit a yellow mucus which can even prevent the eye from opening properly – especially first thing in the morning. If it is viral, you ten to get symptoms occurring simultaneously in both eyes. It is super contagious and you should avoid contact with anyone displaying symptoms.. Alternatively, your conjunctivitis might be bacterial, where a foreign entity has entered the eye and caused an inflammation. You can generally tell this apart from the viral strand because bacterial conjunctivitis will start in one eye and gradually spread to the other.
I usually point my clients towards Zaditen when I see the tell tale signs of redness or yellow mucus. Zaditen is an antihistamine which works to reduce the inflammation in your conjunctiva. It comes in the form of eye drops, and when your eyes have been dry and itchy for hours on end, there is no greater balm than a few drops of Zaditen. As always, it is important that you follow the instructions, and seek medical assistance if symptoms persist or worsen
Fifthly, know how to perform first aid on eyes. If someone has something significant in their eye, you need to call 000. In the meantime, cover both eyes with a clean eye pad or a dressing. Why both eyes? Well, when you move one eye, the other follows. So if the patient has nothing to look at all, both of their eyes stay still, minimising the risk of further damage. Never try to remove the foreign object. Eyes are fairly delicate little things, and more damage has been done by well meaning bystanders trying to pull it out than I care to mention here. Just reassure the patient and wait for help to arrive.
Finally, my favourite piece of advice when it comes to eye health is to give them a well earned rest. In the 20th century, we work more than ever on screens. And then we get home and decide to relax a little bit… using another screen. The result? Your eyes are the most overused part of your body and you never give them a chance to recover. Specialists recommend the 20 20 20 rule. Every 20 minutes, you should look 20 feet in front of you (that is about six metres for all you kids out there who never dealt in feet and inches). Do this for about 20 seconds to give your eyes the chance to recalibrate and relax. Even better? Get home and read a book! Give yourself a break from the screen! Just avoid the likes of King Lear or Oedipus Rex, as they both centre around the tragic hero stabbing their own eyes out. No one needs that kinda bleakness after a long day!
So there you have it: a fairly comprehensive guide for how to look out for your eyesight.
Don’t take them for granted. You’ll know their true value when they start to fail.