It’s often said that eyes are the windows to a person’s soul but they are also our window onto the world. Except if you’re the one of the many Australians who lose part or all of their vision every 65 minutes.
RANZCO Eye Foundation are committed to raising community awareness of eye health issues, funding research projects into eye health and supporting international eye health related projects in developing countries. Every year, for the month of July they run the JulEYE campaign to help promote eye health and related issues in Australia.
What causes vision impairment/loss?
Numerous factors may contribute to visual impairment or vision loss, including inherited eye disorders like retinitis pigmentosa and eye injury as well as common treatable disorders like cataracts, glaucoma and uncorrected refractive errors. In fact, 75% of vision loss is preventable or treatable when detected early enough.
Certain health conditions may lead to poor eye health or exacerbate existing conditions. Diabetes, for example, may lead to diabetic retinopathy, a condition that damages the small blood vessels at the back of the eyes and leads to patchy blurred vision, difficulty seeing at night, balance issues and over-sensitivity to glare. Your risk of developing diabetes is higher if you are overweight or obese.
Smoking is a significant factor in the development of age-related macular degeneration; the nicotine and carbon dioxide in cigarettes are linked to elasticity loss in arteries and a build up of atherosclerotic plaque, damaging arteries and decreasing blood flow to the eye, which leads to vision loss.
Remember your mum nagging you about never looking directly at the sun? Well, she had a good reason. Although beautiful, damaging UV rays from the sun can lead to cataracts, growths in the eye and some rare eye cancers. A condition known as snow blindness is also suffered by those who spend time in the snow at altitude; high altitude increases the intensity of UV rays and so does the reflection of sunlight off the snow.
What are common symptoms?
Many serious eye diseases have no early symptoms; often, symptoms only appear in the latter stages of the disease when significant damage has already been done.
The key to maintaining your eye health is early detection, so make sure you have your eyes checked regularly by a qualified eye care professional. It is recommended that you get your eyes tested at least every two years. Confused about where to go? Visit your GP for a referral or Google optometrists in your area.
Regular checkups with an optometrist are covered on most comprehensive health insurance policies with extras cover; make sure you check with your provider as to your level of cover. It’s always a good idea to compare health insurance providers, as extras cover (like optometry) may vary significantly between providers.
Healthy Eye Tips
There’s a few ways to keep your eyes healthy and prevent vision impairment and disease. Try out these general health related tips:
- Maintain a healthy weight through diet and exercise. A healthy weight reduces your risk of cardiovascular and atherosclerotic conditions (cholesterol build up in arteries) related to heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.
- Eat leafy greens and nutritious fruits. Pumpkin, spinach and carrots are all eye health super foods, so pack your plate full of them.
- Wear protective lenses. Wearing sunglasses, UV protective safety lenses or UV goggles (for snow and water sports) will reduce your exposure to harmful and potentially damaging UV rays. Wearing a hat while out in the sun will also help reduce your eyes’ exposure to UV.
- Stop Smoking. As mentioned above, smoking can have serious implications for the health of your eyes. Contact your GP or Quitline for assistance.
The Final Word
Imagine missing out on seeing the biggest events in your life. For the one in 20,000 Australians who view their world in the dark, this is their reality. Vision loss can affect anyone, regardless of age. This July, head to your local optometrist for a checkup – it could be life changing. In addition to getting checked, implementing our tips should keep your eyes healthy for many years to come. Have a healthy and happy JulEYE.