For most people our eyes provide around 80% of the information from our surroundings, and pharmacists are perfectly placed to help consumers maintain good eye health.
By Dr Esther Lau, Professor Lisa Nissen – School of Clinical Sciences, Queensland University of Technology
OUR EYES ARE PRECIOUS – they are our windows to the world around us, particularly since for most people, our vision reportedly provides 80% of the information from our surroundings.
Our eyesight is one of our most treasured senses, and we often take for granted how we rely on our eyesight every day – be it to admire a beautiful sunrise or a starry night, to read a good book, or to see the faces of our loved ones. It is probably because seeing is so natural and such an automatic part of most people’s every day lives that we sometimes forget to maintain and look after our eye health. Some tips to help take good care of our eyes include:
- Regular eye tests – even for people without eye conditions, it is important to have an eye check up with the optometrist every two years. For people over 40 years or with certain eye conditions, more frequent visits may be required.
- UV protection – UV rays from the sun can cause irreversible damage to the eyes e.g. cataracts. Furthermore, 5-10% of all skin cancers are located in the eyelid region. Investing in a pair of good sunglasses is not only for making a fashion statement, but also to protect your eyes!
- Resting your eyes – given we are so connected to all our devices nowadays, and we are working for longer hours at computer screens, smart phones, tablets, and even smart watches and other wearable technology. This can lead us to strain our eyes, as our eyes can be fixed on the screens for long periods of time. People usually blink about 17,000 times a day, but when working at a computer screen, we can blink up to one-third less. Blinking less allows the tears coating the eyes to evaporate more quickly, which can cause dry eye. Artificial tears or lubricating eye drops can help with the symptoms, and taking 2-3 minute breaks to walk away from the computer screen to do some eye exercises is also helpful.
- Eye exercises – the 20-20-20 rule is looking 20 feet in front of you for 20 seconds, every 20 minutes – this helps to relax the eye muscles, reducing eye strain.
- Smoking cessation – smoking increases the risk of macular degeneration, causes optic nerve damage, and hastens the development of cataracts.
- Finally, maintaining a health lifestyle and a healthy diet overall can help with looking after our eyes, and help to prevent other conditions that may contribute to eye problems e.g. hypertension and glaucoma; diabetes and retinopathy.