Five million Britons haven't visited an optician in 10 years
To mark National Eye Health Week, the College of Optometrists have released some worrying statistics about how we neglect the health of our eyes in Britain.
Despite the fact that we aren't getting our eyes checked by an optician often enough, 66 per cent of us recognise that you can have a serious eye problem without realising it as there may not be any symptoms.
Francesca Marchetti, Chair of National Eye Health Week said, "Many people dread the thought of losing their sight but few of us think about what we can do to keep our eyes healthy. One of the most important steps you can take to protect your sight is to get your eyes checked regularly.
"A sight test is not just to check whether you need to wear glasses, it is actually a window into your overall health. An eye check can detect eye conditions which have no symptoms and other conditions such as diabetes and hypertension."
Our friends at National Eye Health Week have given us some top tips to make sure you keep your eyes in the best condition possible:
- Don’t forget your eyes – treat your eye health as you would any other part of your body. Most people are recommended to go for a check-up every two years, unless otherwise advised by an optometrist. Even if you think your vision is fine, some eye conditions, for example open angle glaucoma, may not show symptoms.
- Be risk aware – people of Asian or African Caribbean descent or people over 40 should go for a sight test at least every two years as they are more at risk of developing eye disease.
- Quit smoking – if you smoke, you have another good reason to kick the habit. Smoking is linked to blindness. Current smokers are four times more likely to develop macular degeneration, a progressive disease that can lead to significant sight loss, compared to past smokers or non-smokers.
- It’s all relative – talk to your relatives about your family eye health history as some eye conditions, such as glaucoma, can run in families. It’s important to think about your child’s eyes and to be aware of their vision, especially if there is a family history of lazy eye or squint or family members wore particularly strong spectacles when they were young.
- Be cool in the sun – protect your eyes when it is sunny or when you’re in high glare areas such as near snow or water. Too much UV exposure may damage your eyes. When choosing sunglasses make sure that they are safe as well as stylish! Look out for the CE or BS EN 1836:2005 marks – this ensures that they provide a safe level of protection from the sun's damaging UVA and UVB rays. Don’t forget to also protect children's eyes – they’re more at risk.
- Contact lens care – if you wear contact lenses make sure you look after them properly. Thoroughly wash and dry your hands before touching your contact lenses or your eyes, and only ever clean your contact lenses using the solution recommended by your optometrist. Never shower, sleep or swim with your contact lenses in because this can put you at risk of developing a serious eye infection which could lead to blindness. Also, don't wear them for longer periods than recommended by your optometrist.
- Protect your eyes – if you work with hazardous or airborne materials at work or home wear safety glasses or protective goggles to protect your eyes from injury.
- Keep fit and healthy – regular exercise is essential to stay fit and healthy but it is also important that when playing sports such as squash that you wear protective eye wear such as helmets or sports goggles to protect your eyes from a flying ball.
- Eat well – protecting your eyes starts with the food you eat. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, zinc and vitamins C and E may help to prevent age-related vision problems such as macular degeneration and cataracts. Recommended foods include green leafy vegetables and oily fish, such as salmon, and citrus fruits.
For more eye care tips, go to the College of Optometrists website.
To find out more about National Eye Health Week, check the Vision Matters website for events and ways to get involved.
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