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Eye health

Looking after your eyes

Did you know that some conditions, such as glaucoma, can develop so slowly that you might not be aware you have it until you have lost a significant amount of vision which cannot be restored? Regular eye tests can ensure that any changes to your vision are monitored and treatment can be administered if appropriate. A sight test is a vital check on the health of your eyes and includes the detection of eye conditions. Many conditions, if they are found early, can be treated successfully, avoiding potential sight loss.

A sight test can also detect other conditions such as high blood pressure.

It is recommended that most people have eye tests every 2 years (more frequently if you are diabetic, 40+ with a family history of glaucoma, or over 70). It is recommended that children have yearly eye tests. Tests are free if you are under 16, aged 16, 17, or 18 and in full time education, 60 or over, registered sight impaired (partially sighted) or severely sight impaired (blind), are diabetic, have been diagnosed with glaucoma, if you are 40+ and have an immediate family history of glaucoma, or if you are on means tested benefits. If you work with computers you may be able to claim the cost back from your employer.

If you are over 40, or of African Caribbean origin, or have a close family member with an eye condition like glaucoma, you should bear in mind that you are at a greater risk than average of having an eye condition that may not have any symptoms. That means you might not find out about a problem until it becomes difficult to do something about it.

There is evidence that too much exposure to the sunshine, in particular the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays, can contribute to the development of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.

Research has shown that 76 per cent of parents admit to not making sure their child wears sunglasses when out and about in the sun. Since children spend a lot of time outside, it’s important to protect your child’s eyes in the sun. Make sure your child’s sunglasses have 100% UV protection and carry the British Standard (BS EN 1836:2005) or CE mark. You can also protect your child’s eyes by making sure they wear a hat with a brim or a sun visor in bright sunlight. Scientific studies have shown that children who spend time outdoors are less likely to be short-sighted and some eye problems are linked to unhealthy lifestyles. So don’t stop your child exercising outdoors! Just make sure their eyes are properly protected.

Research has shown that almost 80 per cent of under-25s put fashion and price before safety standards when choosing sunglasses. Buy good quality, dark sunglasses - good sunglasses don’t need to be expensive: you can purchase perfectly adequate protective sunglasses from high street stores.

Sun beds have been linked to skin cancer, so they are best avoided. If you do use a sun bed, always make sure you wear eye protection while tanning. The skin on eyelids is very thin and delicate so it is vital to protect eyelids from ultraviolet (UV) rays. Lack of protection could lead to benign eye growths called Pterygium and repeated exposure to UV may cause long-term damage, which could affect your sight. So it is vital that you use effective eye protection in the form of goggles on both sun and tanning beds

Research conducted by the College of Optometrists shows that most of us spend nearly 50 hours a week staring at a computer screen.

More than half of those say they suffer from “tired eyes”, while others admit to suffering headaches, blurred vision and have difficulty focusing.

If you spend a lot of your time looking at computers it is crucial that you take regular breaks and have regular eye examinations.

 

Some do’s and don’ts

  • Make sure that if you need glasses to look at a screen, that you wear them!
  • Blink regularly. When focusing on a screen your reflexes slow down, tear production reduces, and you  blink less, causing dry and uncomfortable eyes.
  • Remember the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, look 20 feet away (six metres) for 20 seconds to give your eye muscles a break and help increase the rate of blinking.
  • Keep the distance of the monitor from your eyes between 40 and 76 centimetres (16 to 30 inches). Most people find a distance of 50 to 65 centimetres (20 to 26 inches) comfortable.
  • Make sure that the top of the monitor is at a level at or slightly below your horizontal eye level.
  • Tilt the top of the monitor away from you at 10 to 20-degrees. This will enable you to create an optimum viewing angle.
  • Keep your screen free of dust and fingerprints.
  • Try and position your monitor so that you do not get distracting reflections (e.g. from a window).
  • Use an adjustable chair that enables you to sit at a proper angle and distance from your computer monitor screen.
  • If your work involves prolonged data entry, use document holders to secure any reading or reference material.  Placing them close to the monitor or  at the same distance from your eyes as your monitor will enable your eyes to remain focused as they look from the monitor to the reading material.
  • Use a character size that is visible. Character size is an important factor since it determines the distance at which you prefer to view the monitor.
  • Make sure your workstation is set up comfortably; avoid poor posture, which can lead to neck, back, arm or other aches and pains.

 

In total around 30,000 eye injuries a year are linked to DIY activity - many caused by flying wood, metal or concrete chips.

Protective eyewear should be worn for activities such as hammering, chiselling, drilling, stripping paint, splitting tiles or concrete slabs, welding, painting ceilings and laying insulation. The rule of thumb being that if there is any risk of an object entering the eye, to wear protective eyewear.

Another common activity that can lead to eye injury is gardening.  You don’t need to wear goggles for this, but sometimes glasses or sunglasses can be useful, for example to protect against canes poking you in the eye when bending down weeding or pruning.

When you buy eyewear protection, check it conforms to European Standard BSEN 166. If you wear glasses or contact lenses, these will not protect your eyes sufficiently, and protective eyewear should be worn on top to ensure adequate protection. Alternatively, you can have prescription goggles fitted by your local optometrist.

If you do experience an eye injury, it is important to not rub the affected eye. You should seek medical assistance immediately instead

 

Diet

Everybody knows that eating the right food is the way to keep your heart healthy, but the good news is that the same diet that helps your heart is also good for your eyes. A diet low in fat and rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains can pay benefits not only to your heart but to your eyes as well. The connection isn't surprising: your eyes rely on tiny arteries for oxygen and nutrients, just as the heart relies on much larger arteries. Keeping those arteries healthy will help your eyes.  

Some foods stand out as particularly helpful for eye health. Here are four that you should make part of your regular diet.

Greens. Leafy green vegetables, like kale, are high in Lutein and Zeaxanthin, two nutrients found in the healthy eye that are believed to lower your risk for age related macular degeneration and cataracts. One large study showed that women who had diets high in Lutein were 23% less likely to develop cataracts than women whose diets were low in this nutrient. Not a big fan of kale? Not to worry. Other dark leafy green vegetables, like spinach, romaine lettuce, collards and turnip greens, also contain significant amounts of Lutein and Zeaxanthin. Eggs are also a good source of these nutrients, as are broccoli, peas and corn.

Salmon. Some studies suggest that diets rich in omega-3 fatty acid from cold-water fish like salmon, tuna, sardines and halibut reduce the risk of developing eye disease later in life. A 2010 study from Johns Hopkins found that people who had a diet high in omega-3 fatty acid were much less likely to develop Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD).

Oranges. Oranges and all of their citrus cousins — grapefruit, tangerines, and lemons — are high in vitamin C, an antioxidant that is critical to eye health. Scientists have found that your eyes need relatively high levels of vitamin C to function properly, and antioxidants can prevent or at least delay cataracts and AMD. Lots of other foods offer benefits similar to oranges, including peaches, red peppers, tomatoes and strawberries.

Black-eyed peas. Legumes of all kinds, including black-eyed peas, kidney beans, lima beans, and peanuts contain zinc, an essential trace mineral that is found in high concentration in the eyes. Zinc may help protect your eyes from the damaging effects of light. Other foods high in zinc include oysters, lean red meat, poultry and fortified cereals.

There are lots of other great foods out there to help keep your eyes healthy. Among them, the one most people think of first: carrots. Carrots are high in beta-carotene, a nutrient that helps with night vision, as are other orange-coloured fruits and vegetables like sweet potatoes, apricots and cantaloupe. Making them a part of your diet can help you keep your eyes healthy.  

 

Eye care campaign

eye health testing

Bedford Borough Council has been significantly involved in the Bedfordshire wide awareness raising campaign for eye health. This is now being publicised in Bedford Borough through a number of visual display units in the Harpur Centre, train station and other locations, advertising the importance of eye testing. 

Across Bedfordshire all GP practices and pharmacies will display posters reinforcing this message.  

Please click here to view the poster.

 

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