Looking after your eyes is a vital part of staying healthy and enjoying life. Experts insist that regular eye tests are important, to keep a check on your vision and general health.
Just think how much strenuous work your eyes do in a day!
Common Eye Problems
This is where one eye turns and does not work properly with the other. Eye movements are controlled by muscles that work in pairs so if one muscle is weak, a squint can occur. A squinting eye may not develop properly leading to a ‘lazy' eye. An operation, sometimes followed by exercises, can remedy the squint. Early diagnosis is important as eyes are fully developed by the age of eight.
This is when the retina becomes detached from the back of the eye, often causing sudden loss of vision. Other signs of a detached retina can be flashing lights and floaters. It is a serious condition, needing immediate referral to casualty.
In diabetes, changes to the retina's appearance can occur. By monitoring any changes, your optician can assess the disease's progress and how effectively it is being controlled.
A cataract clouds the eye's normally transparent lens, blurring vision. Symptoms include haziness around lights and poorer vision in bright sunlight. Almost all people over 65 will have cataracts, but only a small number will have poor vision as a result and need surgery.
This can be caused by bacteria, a virus or allergen such as dust, light or heat. Symptoms include redness of the eye, swollen lids and itchy, gritty or stinging eyes. These symptoms can be very infectious, particularly if caused by bacteria or a virus. Treatment is usually in the form of drops or ointment which can be purchased from the pharmacy, although this depends on the cause of the infection.
High blood pressure
High blood pressure can cause changes to the blood vessels throughout the body and may be more obviously seen in the blood vessels of the retina.
This is caused by a progressive rise in the pressure of fluid in the eye that damages the optic nerve, so messages are no longer sent to the brain. It can lead to tunnel vision and blindness if not treated at an early stage.
Colour vision defects
Around 8% of boys and 1% of girls have colour defective vision. An affected person will often have difficulty identifying differences between colours. It cannot be ‘cured' and may alter the choice of career; therefore it is important for children to have their colour vision tested.
This is caused when an eyelash follicle is infected. Most styes will get better on their own, but applying warm compresses can speed up healing.
Different Eye Conditions
NORMAL SIGHT: Emmetropia
A person with normal sight has eyes of the right length (from lens to retina) so the image of a distant object can be focused on the retina without any distortion.
The image of a distant object is focused in front of the retina, because the eye may be too long or light refraction is too strong. Distance vision will be blurred; near vision is generally good.
The image of a distant object is focused behind the retina, because the eye may be too short or the refractive mechanism is too weak. Close work is generally difficult. Distance vision is usually good in younger people, but tends to be reduced in older people.
An astigmatic eye looks more like a rugby ball than a football in shape. Both distance and near vision are likely to be equally affected. Astigmatism can be found with both short and long-sightedness.
This translates as ‘old eye'. It starts to affect us in our early to mid-40s, as the lens becomes less flexible, reducing its power to focus on close objects. Symptoms include eyestrain and headaches while doing close work such as reading, writing and sewing, blurry vision and eye fatigue.
Your Child's Eyesight
It is advisable for children to have an eye test by the age of three, or earlier if you think there may be a problem. Eyesight is fully developed by the age of eight and special tests can identify problems in very young children.
Any defect, such as a squint, could cause problems later, for example with school performance. Experts believe that almost 50% of children with learning difficulties have vision disorders but, as there is no formal screening, it is difficult for parents to tell.
Most disorders are easy to correct and the earlier a problem is detected, the more effectively it can be treated.
All children under the age of 16 and those under 19 in full-time education, are entitled to a free eye test. All children will receive an NHS voucher if they need spectacles.
Nutritional supplements that have been linked to maintaining good eye health are available in many fruits, vegetables and foods.
Changing eyesight is a normal part of growing older. Even if your vision has never needed correcting, your ability to focus will eventually deteriorate due to presbyopia, or ‘old eyes'. This usually begins in the early to mid-40s.
The lens loses elasticity, so it is less able to focus on close objects. As a result, we typically have difficulty reading small print and we may need to hold reading material at arm's length.
Other eye health symptoms to look out for include headache and eye strain when doing ‘close work' (e.g. reading, sewing and writing), blurry vision and eye fatigue.
Watching TV and driving are not considered ‘close work', therefore you should not wear reading glasses for these activities. Using a computer is classed as middle distance, so reading glasses should not be worn initially but, as presbyopia worsens, help may be needed.
Older eyes - Watching TV and driving are not considered ‘close work', therefore you should not wear reading glasses for these activities.
How often do I need to have my eyes tested?
Regular checks are vital to ensure your prescription is correct. Most people need the normal two-yearly check. Some opticians will recommend a check every 12 months if changes are occurring and for people who have other conditions, such as diabetes or glaucoma.
Unlike teeth, eyes do not normally let you know in an obvious way when something is wrong.
Regular eye tests are important because the sooner a vision problem is detected, the greater the chance of successful treatment - this is particularly true with young children and those over 50.
What is age-related macular degeneration (ARMD)?
ARMD is a common eye disease associated with ageing that gradually destroys the sharp
central vision needed for reading, driving and common daily tasks.
Symptoms of ARMD include blurred vision and, as the disease progresses, a small but growing blind spot in the central vision, while normally side vision is retained. ARMD can be detected by having regular eye tests and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Which frames are best for driving?
Choose frames that do not obscure your vision, such as styles of frames with thin sides that are above eye level. Tinted lenses are suitable for daytime driving in normal weather conditions.
Should I wear sunglasses?
Continuous exposure to strong sunlight (and hence UV radiation) can damage your eyes easily so sunglasses and a hat are essential in these conditions.
What supplements are good for my eyes?
Nutritional vitamins and supplements have been linked to keeping your eyes healthy and are available from your local Alphega Pharmacist.
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