Eye Care Awareness Month is commemorated from 20 September to 17 October, with the aim of raising awareness globally about the importance of eye health, specifically the prevention and treatment of avoidable blindness.
Spec-Savers Kalahari Mall optometrist, Russell Nugent, says that many people are not aware that 75% of eye disorders and diseases can be treated or even prevented if caught early. ‘Many eye diseases and conditions do not have obvious signs or symptoms, especially when they are in the early stages. Having a professional eye examination every 24 months means that you will catch an eye disorder early, allowing timely treatment which dramatically improves the long-term prognosis.’
Other than having your eyes checked regularly, Russell recommends five ways to keep you seeing clearly:
- Protect your peepers
Modern technology and our socially-distanced environment have led to a dramatic increase in screen time for all ages, with much of our working, schooling and social lives now happening on a screen or device. We recommend using adequate lighting and reducing glare; adjusting your monitor’s brightness, contrast and colour monitor display settings; and regularly resting your eyes while working on a screen. Keep the 20/20/20 rule in mind: every 20 minutes look away from your screen at something that is 20 feet (6 metres) away from you for 20 seconds. This allows your eyes to relax and can alleviate symptoms.
Your optometrist can also help ease the strain by prescribing customised blue light computer glasses. These lead to visual improvement, reduce symptoms caused by glare exposure and will correct any astigmatism you may have. It’s also a good idea to use proper lighting when working or reading, as using dim light makes it difficult for your eyes to focus and leads to eye fatigue, pain and headaches.
- Get enough sleep
Always aim for eight hours of quality sleep per night, as lack of sleep can lead to eye strain and eye fatigue.
- Know your family’s eye health history
Prevention is key, especially if there’s a history of eye disorders in your family. It’s also especially important to be proactive about regular eye check-ups if you have diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol, or there’s history of any of these in your family, or if you’re taking certain chronic medication.
- Sunglasses are more than just a fashion statement
Be sure to choose sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of UVA and UVB radiation to avoid overexposure to the harmful rays of the sun. Think of sunglasses as sunblock for your eyes.
- Follow a healthy lifestyle
This includes maintaining a healthy weight and eating right to protect your sight—in particular, eat plenty of dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale, or collard greens, and fish that is high in omega-3 fatty acids. It’s also advisable to stop smoking, as this causes dry eyes as well as exacerbating other eye diseases such as cataract, macular degeneration – the leading cause of vision loss –and retinopathy. Smokers are also more likely to become blind than non-smokers.
And finally, Russell cautions that it’s important not to ignore symptoms of eye disorders or diseases. ‘Visit an eye care professional as soon as possible if you have decreased vision, eye pain, drainage or redness of the eye, double vision, diabetes, or if you see flashes of light, floaters (tiny specks that appear to float before your eyes), or circles (halos) around light sources. Your eyes are among your greatest assets, allowing you to embrace the world and all its beauty around you. Proactively looking after them is paramount and is so easy to do. Dedicating an hour of your time every 24 months to this incredible organ is the smart thing to do!’