Sight loss affects more than 2 million people in the UK, with common causes including age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts and diabetic retinopathy. And according to the Royal National Institute of Blind People, the number looks to increase over the next 25 years as preventable conditions that put people at risk of sight loss — like obesity and type 2 diabetes — are on the rise 1.
So what can you do to protect your eyesight? From regular check-ups to eating the right foods, here are some simple ways to take care of your eyes:
1. Get the right nutrients
Eating a healthy balanced diet rich in fruit and vegetables isn’t just good for your body — there’s evidence to show that it can help protect your vision, too 2. Certain vitamins and micronutrients can help fight off some eye conditions, including:
Vitamin A, C and E — these antioxidant vitamins have been linked with protecting against age-related macular degeneration.
Lutein and zeaxanthin — these micronutrients are found in green leafy vegetables and can help to protect against age-related macular degeneration.
Omega-3 — found in oily fish like mackerel and salmon, this can help to prevent dry eyes and related sight loss.
2. Maintain a healthy weight
Obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol can all increase your risk of eye problems, so if you're within a healthy weight range you’re more likely to have increased protection. You're also far less likely to develop type 2 diabetes, which can lead to sight loss 2.
If you need to lose weight to reach a healthy range, the NHS has some great resources, including more about eating a healthy diet and the benefits of exercise.
3. Get an eye test at least every two years
Many common causes of sight loss, such as cataracts, can be diagnosed at a routine check-up and treated early, before your vision is affected.
Our standard health insurance doesn't cover the cost of eye tests, but with optional dental and optical cover you can claim up to £150 towards glasses and contact lenses (with a £50 excess).
4. Wear suitable eye protection
It's also important to protect your eyes from injury.
There's a wide range of everyday circumstances in which it's appropriate to wear eye protection, such as DIY or gardening, or some sports, like squash.
If your job involves the use of chemicals, welding or a dusty environment, your employer must supply suitable eyewear.
And don't forget about sun protection, as the sun's rays can be damaging. To stay protected, only wear sunglasses with a CE mark or that carry British Standard BS EN ISO 12312-1:2013 3.
These simple guidelines could help you look after your eyes and protect your vision throughout your life, hopefully cutting out some of the causes of preventable sight loss.