How to Maintain Healthy Eyes

by Guest Writer

After British actress, Judi Dench, announced that she had been diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration (AMD), it focused attention on a serious eye disease that affects many older people and can lead to blindness.

While you may think that your vision is fine, or that you have no eye problems, you cannot be sure unless you have a comprehensive dilated eye exam, according to the National Eye Institute, Bethesda, Maryland. Unfortunately, many common eye diseases, such as glaucoma, diabetic eye disease, and macular degeneration often have no obvious warning signs.

During a dilated eye exam, an optometrist of ophthalmologist puts drops in the eye to dilate—or to widen—the pupil to allow more light to enter the eye, so that the doctor can look at the back of the eye to see if there are any signs of damage or disease.

Your eye-care professional may ask about any eye problems with family members, since eye problems can be inherited.

“Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, especially dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, and collard greens, are important for keeping your eyes healthy,” the Institute said.

In addition, research has shown that there are eye health benefits from eating fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, tuna, and halibut. Omega-fatty acids are found in vegetables.

Being overweight increases your risk of developing diabetes and other systemic conditions, which can lead to diabetic eye disease or glaucoma, the Institute added.

While engaging in sports or doing household chores, always wear protective eye gear. This eyewear, such as safety glasses or goggles, safety shields, or eye guards, is designed to give protection for various activities.

“Research has linked smoking to an increased risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, cataract, and optic nerve damage, which can lead to blindness,” the Institute added.

If you spend a lot of time at a computer, or focus on a single object for a time, you may forget to blink and your eyes can get tired. You can reduce eyestrain by, every 20 minutes, look away about 20 feet in front of you for 20 seconds.

To avoid an eye infection, the Institute recommends that you wash your hands before putting in or taking out contact lenses. In addition, always disinfect contact lenses as required, and replace them as recommended by the manufacturer.

A research team a the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, discussed a supplement developed for eye health at the National Eye Institute called AREDS, and suggested that by taking a high-dose formulation of antioxidant vitamins and zinc based on the formula might reduce the progression of age-related macular degeneration.

The formula contains:

  • 500 mg/day of vitamin C
  • 400 IU/day of vitamin E
  • 15 mg/day of beta-carotene (vitamin A up to 25,000 IU)
  • 80 mg/day of zinc oxide
  • 2 mg/day of copper (cupric oxide)—this is designed to counteract a copper deficiency caused by the zinc

In a study by Julie A. Mares, Ph.D., et al., at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, they reported that, while smoking alone was not independently associated with AMD, having a combination of 3 healthful lifestyles—healthful diet, exercise, and not smoking—might reduce the risk of AMD by 71%, compared to those with high-risk scores.

In a study of 39,876 female health professionals, higher intakes of lutein, zeahanthin, and vitamin E, from foods and supplements, were associated with a significantly decreased risk of cataracts, according to William G. Christen, Sc.D., at the Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts. Lutein and zeahanthin are carotenes and relatives of vitamin A.

Research by A. L. Coleman, M.D., of the Jules Stein Eye Institute, UCLA, in California, and colleagues, involved data from 1,155 women. They reported that a higher intake of fruits and vegetables might be associated with a decreased risk of glaucoma. They specifically studied green collards, kale, carrots, and canned and dried peaches.

At the Harvard Medical School, Eliot L, Berson, M.D., et al., reported that retinitis pigmentosa, which is damage to the retina, affects 1 in 4,000 people, or roughly 2 million people worldwide.

The research team said that a treatment regimen consisting of vitamin A (15,000 IU/day), combined with an omega-3 fatty acid diet (20.2 g/day), should allow most patients to retain both visual acuity and full central vision for most of their life. This therapy brought almost a 50% slower rate of decline in central vision sensitivity, they said.

Whether you are lucky enough to have perfect vision or are forced to wear glasses/contacts, it is still important to take a dilated eye exam as glaucoma, diabetic eye disease, and macular degeneration have no warning signs. Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and omega-3 fatty acids. Wear protective eye gear when necessary, do not smoke, and look away from screens every 20 minutes. While certain vitamins reduce the progression of different diseases, vitamin A combined with an omega-3 fatty acid diet is a good precautionary action for retaining the best visual activity for most of your life. Everyone wants to be able to see things clearly so why not be proactive in the name of your vision!

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