How to avoid blindness?

8 ways to protect your eyesight

Vision over 60

By Gary Heiting, OD

Protecting your eyesight is one of the most important things you can do to help maintain your quality of life.

The leading causes of blindness and low vision are age-related diseases such as macular degeneration, cataract, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma.

Here are some helpful tips to help you avoid vision loss from these age-related eye diseases and other problems:

1. Find out if you are at higher risk for eye diseases.

Be aware of your family’s health history. Do you or any of your family suffer from diabetes or have a history of high blood pressure? Are you over age 60? Any of these traits increase your risk for sight-threatening eye diseases.

2. Have regular physical exams to check for diabetes and high blood pressure.

If left untreated, these diseases can cause eye problems. In particular, diabetes and high blood pressure can lead to vision loss from diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration and eye strokes.

3. Look for warning signs of changes in your vision.

If you start noticing changes in your vision, see your eye doctor immediately. Some trouble signs to look for are double vision, hazy vision and difficulty seeing in low light conditions.

Other signs and symptoms of potentially serious eye problems that warrant immediate attention include red eyes, frequent flashes of light, floaters, and eye pain and swelling.

4. Exercise frequently.

Studies suggest that regular exercise — such as brisk walking — can reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration by up to 70 percent.

5. Protect your eyes from harmful UV light.

When outdoors during daytime, always wear sunglasses that shield your eyes from 100 percent of the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. This may help reduce your risk of cataracts, pinguecula and other eye problems.

6. Eat a healthy and balanced diet.

Research has shown that antioxidants can possibly reduce the risk of cataracts. These antioxidants are best obtained from eating a diet containing plentiful amounts of fruits and colorful or dark green vegetables. Studies also have shown that eating fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids may reduce your risk of developing macular degeneration.

Also, consider supplementing your diet with eye vitamins to make sure you are getting adequate amounts of the nutrients you need to keep your eyes healthy.

7. Have an annual eye exam.

A comprehensive eye exam, including dilating your pupils, can determine your risk for major eye diseases such as diabetic retinopathy, which has no early warning signs or symptoms.

An eye exam also can ensure that your prescription for eyeglasses or contact lenses is up to date and that you are seeing as clearly and safely as possible.

8. Don’t smoke.

The many dangers of smoking have been well documented. When it comes to eye health, people who smoke are at greater risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, uveitis and other eye problems.

Bonus tip: Safety glasses

Be sure to wear safety glasses when working with tools (especially grinders and other power tools) or participating in active sports. Most work- and sports-related eye injuries that can cause permanent vision loss can be prevented with safety eyewear.

See an eye doctor

Following the steps above is won’t guarantee that you’ll have perfect vision throughout your lifetime. But maintaining a healthy lifestyle, taking certain precautions, and having regular eye exams will decrease your risk of avoiding preventable vision loss.

Page updated June 2019

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Gary Heiting, OD

Gary Heiting, OD, is a former senior editor of AllAboutVision.com. Dr. Heiting has more than 30 years of experience as an eye care provider, health educator and consultant to the eyewear … read more

Why Does My Vision Keep Getting Worse?

It can be discouraging when your vision exam results show you need a stronger prescription. This is especially true if you are careful to always wear your glasses when you need them, whether it is just while reading or all the time. After an exam, hearing that your vision is now worse isn’t the news you were hoping for.

Don’t get upset and blame your glasses though. There are many reasons why your eyes don’t see quite as well as they did at your last vision test. And none of them have to do with your glasses.

Growing Up…

The eyes change shape in order to focus incoming light on the correct spot on the retina. However, children’s eyeballs are still small and aren’t finished growing to their full adult size yet. This limits the flexibility of the eye and inhibits its ability to focus. It is fairly common for children to be farsighted because of this. As their bodies and eyes grow, their near vision can actually improve.

Vision changes due to eye growth are more apparent if they are wearing eyeglasses already. The continued development of the eyes in children means they will also need to update their prescription eyeglasses more often than an adult. Their lenses may become too weak even within a few months if they are going through a growth spurt.

…or Growing Old

Aging again becomes a factor in deteriorating vision after age 40. As you get older, along with the rest of your body, your eyes lose elasticity which weakens their ability to focus. In order to see objects close up, the eyes contract and the lens thickens, which makes the lens of the eye more convex. The reduced elasticity due to aging makes it more difficult for your eyes to shape themselves properly to look at things near to them, like when reading a book. Because the eye can’t compensate for this, corrective lenses are needed.

Tiredness and Eye Strain

Sometimes, weak vision is temporary. Blurry vision that goes away on its own may be caused by eye strain, not an out-of-date prescription. Noticing that your eyes feel tired, itchy, too dry, or too watery are some other signs. When doing something strenuous for your eyes, such as using a computer, taking frequent breaks about every 20 minutes to focus your eyes on something else will relieve the stress.

It’s Not Your Glasses

A common myth is that wearing glasses will make your eyes weaker. The idea behind this is that, because the lenses are doing the focusing work, your eyes can become “out of shape” due to lack of practice resulting in becoming dependent on the glasses to see at all.

It is actually because your eyes are (literally) out of shape that you need vision correction in the first place. Common vision problems, like near or far-sightedness, are caused by the shape of your eyeball being too long or too short which prevents the incoming light from focusing on the correct spot in your eye. All the eyeglass lenses are doing is redirecting the light where it needs to go, depending on what vision issue you have.

If you need vision correction for something like astigmatism, leaving your glasses at home will not make your eyes work harder at fixing it. They will, in fact, work harder which will leave you suffering the effects of eye strain.

So, don’t be discouraged at your next vision exam. Prescription eyeglasses are not an indication that your eyes are failing; consider them a way to lend a helping hand to your eyes.

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Treatment


Short-sightedness (myopia)

Laser eye surgery

Laser eye surgery involves using a laser to burn away small sections of your cornea to correct the curvature so light is better focused onto your retina.

There are 3 main types of laser eye surgery:

  • photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) – where a small amount of the cornea’s surface is removed, and a laser is used to remove tissue and change the shape of the cornea
  • laser epithelial keratomileusis (LASEK) – similar to PRK, but involves using alcohol to loosen the surface of the cornea so a flap of tissue can be lifted out of the way, while a laser is used to alter the shape of the cornea; the flap is then put back in place afterwards
  • laser in situ keratectomy (LASIK) – similar to LASEK, but a smaller flap of cornea is created

These procedures are usually carried out on an outpatient basis, so you won’t normally have to stay in hospital overnight.

The treatment usually takes less than 30 minutes to complete and a local anaesthetic is used to numb your eyes while it’s carried out.

Which procedure is best?

All 3 laser eye surgery techniques produce similar results, but they tend to have different recovery times.

LASEK or LASIK are usually the preferred methods as they cause almost no pain and your vision will usually start to recover within a few hours or days. But your vision may not fully stabilise for up to a month.

PRK can be a bit painful and it can take several months for your vision to stabilise afterwards.

LASIK can only be carried out if your cornea is thick enough. If your cornea is thin, the risk of complications occurring, such as loss of vision, is too high.

LASEK and PRK may be possible if your cornea isn’t thick enough for LASIK.

The Royal College of Ophthalmologists has published a patient’s guide to refractive laser surgery (PDF, 364kb) and also has answers to specific questions about laser refractive surgery (PDF, 196kb).

You can also read guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) about laser surgery for the correction of refractive errors.

Results

The results of all 3 techniques are usually good.

While it may not always be possible to completely cure your short-sightedness, around 9 out of 10 people experience a significant improvement in their vision.

Many people are able to meet the minimum vision requirements for driving.

Most people who have laser surgery report that they’re happy with the results.

But it’s important to realise that laser surgery may not necessarily improve your vision to the same degree as wearing corrective lenses.

Also, as with any type of surgery, laser surgery carries the risk of complications.

Risks and complications

Laser eye surgery does carry risks, including:

  • dry eyes – this will usually last a few months, during which time you can lubricate your eyes with special eye drops
  • removal of too much cornea tissue – this occurs in around 1 in 20 cases and could leave you with an eye that’s long-sighted
  • reduced night vision – this usually passes within 6 weeks
  • haze effect around bright lights – this will usually pass within 6 to 12 months

There’s also a small risk of potentially serious complications that could threaten your vision, such as the cornea becoming too thin or infected.

But these problems are rare, occurring in less than 1 in every 500 cases.

Make sure you understand all the risks involved before deciding to have laser eye surgery.

Who can’t have laser surgery?

You shouldn’t have any sort of laser eye surgery if you’re under the age of 21. This is because your vision may still be developing at this stage.

Even if you’re over 21, laser eye surgery should only be carried out if your glasses or contact lens prescription hasn’t changed significantly over the last 2 years or more.

You may also not be suited to laser surgery if you:

  • have diabetes – this can cause abnormalities in the eyes that can be made worse by laser surgery to the cornea
  • are pregnant or breastfeeding – your body will contain hormones that cause slight fluctuations in your eyesight, making precise surgery difficult
  • have a condition that affects your immune system, such as HIV or rheumatoid arthritis (these conditions may affect your ability to recover after surgery)
  • have other problems with your eyes, such as glaucoma (increased pressure in the eye) or cataracts (cloudy patches in the lens of the eye)

Laser eye surgery can generally be effective for people with a prescription of up to -10D.

Find out more about diagnosing short-sightedness

If your short-sightedness is more severe, lens implants may be more appropriate.

Availability and cost

Laser surgery isn’t usually available on the NHS because other treatments, such as glasses or contact lenses, are considered to be equally, if not more, effective.

This means you’ll usually have to pay for surgery privately.

Prices can vary depending on where you live, the individual clinic, and the type of equipment used during the procedure.

As a rough estimate, you usually have to pay somewhere around £800 to £1,500 for each eye.

How Can I Prevent Vision Problems?

Preventive eye care is the first line of defense against vision problems. Early detection of vision problems may offer more effective treatment options:

  • Have periodic eye exams (every 2-3 years for healthy patients under 50, yearly for patients over 50 or those with known health risk factors).
  • Know your family’s history for any eye problems.
  • Follow a healthy lifestyle.
  • Eat a nutritious diet for eyesight.
  • Wear durable eye protection when involved in activities that could cause traumatic risk to your vision, such as sports, dealing with firearms, playing paintball. Occupations where hammering, cutting, sawing, drilling, or working overhead are other examples.
  • Avoid hazards such as fireworks, using harsh chemical like drain cleaners, and jumping car batteries (which do explode).

Maintaining healthy eyesight also depends on getting sufficient vitamins and dietary nutrients. These nutrients play a key role in keeping the eye moist and helping protect your eyes from infection. A well balanced diet will provide most of what normal adults need. Foods rich in omega fatty acids, and leafy green veggies contain lots of valuable nutrients. Vitamins A, C, and E are essential for good eyesight. Lutein and zeaxanthin may protect the macula and retina. Watch your weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels. If you smoke, stop! Smoking is a major risk factor in the development of macular degeneration. If you have diabetes, you need to schedule regular eye exams and carefully monitor your blood sugar levels.

6 ways to improve and protect your vision

Eating an antioxidant-rich diet, wearing protective glasses, and controlling underlying conditions will help protect your vision.

Published: July, 2018


Image: © Sidekick/Getty Images

We all know how important vision is for remaining independent and enjoying the simple pleasures in life, like a colorful sunset or a grandchild’s precious smile. But appreciation isn’t enough to keep your vision intact. Aging increases the risk for vision loss and eye problems, including cataracts, diabetic eye disease, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, and dry eyes.

Adopting the following healthy habits will increase the odds that you’ll protect your vision and independence as well as your view of the things that make life beautiful.

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The greatest fear of patients with eye disease is going “blind.” While there are a number of eye diseases that can lead to some form of vision impairment (less than normal vision), they can affect different aspects of vision and patients can often adapt by using their remaining vision.

Absolute blindness, called “no light perception,” is when a person can’t tell the difference between light and dark, even when a bright light is shined into his/her eyes. This condition is rare. Assistance from the government and foundations is available for these persons.

Legal blindness is defined in the United States as best corrected visual acuity (with glasses) of 20/200 or less in the better eye, and/or a visual field of 20 degrees or less. Legally blind patients qualify for benefits from the government. People with legal blindness may still have some usable vision

Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Legal blindness can be caused by age-related macular degeneration (AMD) because this disease affects the central vision provided by the macula (the specialized central part of the retina). Patients with severely damaged maculas in both eyes have visual acuity measured on an eye chart of 20/200 or worse. However, their peripheral, or side vision is usually intact, so they can see shapes and movement, and read large letters with the help of magnification and bright lights.

Patients with AMD can decrease their risk of legal blindness by stopping smoking, eating vegetables, fruits (every day), and salmon or sardines (twice a week), and, in some patients, by taking the AREDS formula antioxidant vitamins. Also, medicines can be injected into the eye in patients with wet AMD to help slow or stop vision loss.

Retinitis Pigmentosa

Rare genetic diseases affecting the retina can also cause legal blindness. For example, retinitis pigmentosa can cause “tunnel vision,” in which only a tiny window of central vision remains. Such patients might be able to read 20/20 size letters, but would be legally blind because of the small visual field. Retinal gene therapy developed at the Scheie Eye Institute at the University of Pennsylvania has recently been FDA approved for one form of the hereditary retinal disease called Leber’s congenital amaurosis. The treatment works by injecting normal copies of the RPE65 gene into the retinas of patients born with mutations in this gene. It is expected that additional research will lead to gene therapy for other forms of hereditary and acquired eye diseases.

Diabetic Retinopathy

Another retinal disease that can cause legal blindness is diabetic retinopathy. Patients with diabetes can lose vision from swelling or bleeding in the retina, or from retinal detachment. Diabetics can decrease their risk of legal blindness with good blood sugar and blood pressure control and annual eye exams.

Glaucoma

Legal blindness can also be caused by glaucoma, a disease in which the retinal neurons that send the signal from the eye to the brain die. This disease most often progresses slowly over time, with patients losing part of their visual field and/or visual acuity. If the visual field diminishes to 20 degrees or less, then the patient is legally blind. The normal binocular visual field (using both eyes) in the horizontal plane is about 180 degrees. Progression of visual field loss can usually be slowed or stopped by lowering the eye pressure with medications and/or surgery. The earlier the diagnosis and treatment, the better, to preserve your sight.

Cataract

Severe cataract, or clouding of the lens can cause visual acuity to drop to 20/200 or less because the cataract does not permit enough light to reach the retina in the back of the eye. Fortunately, cataracts can be surgically removed and the cloudy lens replaced with a clear plastic one, usually resulting in significantly improved vision.

Resources:

  • Macular Degeneration Toolkit (Helpful Information to Understand and Manage Macular Degeneration)
  • Expert Information on Macular Degeneration (Articles)
  • BrightFocus Chats (Audio Presentations on Macular Degeneration)
  • Macular Degeneration Research News (Newsletters)
  • Glaucoma Toolkit (Information to Help You Understand and Manage Glaucoma)
  • Expert Information on Glaucoma (Articles)
  • Macular Degeneration: Essential Facts (Publication)
  • Glaucoma: Essential Facts (Publication)
  • Government Benefits for Macular Degeneration (Resource List)
  • Government Benefits for Glaucoma (Resource List)

Stop it, or you’ll go blind!

From concerns over blue light to digital strain and dryness, headlines today often worry how smartphones and computer screens might be affecting the health of our eyes. But while the technology may be new, this concern certainly isn’t. Since Victorian times people have been concerned about how new innovations might damage eyesight.

In the 1800s, the rise of mass print was both blamed for an increase in eye problems and was responsible for dramatising the fallibility of vision too. As the amount of known eye problems increased, the Victorians predicted that without appropriate care and attention Britain’s population would become blind. In 1884, an article in The Morning Post newspaper proposed that:

The culture of the eyes and efforts to improve the faculty of seeing must become matters of attentive consideration and practice, unless the deterioration is to continue and future generations are to grope about the world purblind.

The 19th century was the time when opthamology became a more prominent field of healthcare. New diagnostic technologies, such as test charts were introduced and spectacles became a more viable treatment method for a range of vision errors. But though more sight problems were being treated effectively, this very increase created alarm, and a subsequent perceived need to curtail any growth.

In 1889 the Illustrated London News questioned:

To what are we coming? … Now we are informed by men of science that the eyes used so effectively by our forefathers will not suffice for us, and that there is a prospect of England becoming purblind.

The article continued, considering potential causes for this acceleration, and concluded that it could be partly explained by evolution and inheritance.

Urban myopia

Other commentators looked to “modern life” for explanation, and attributed the so-called “deterioration of vision” to the built environment, the rise of print, compulsory education, and a range of new innovations such as steam power. In 1892, an article, published in The Nineteenth Century: A Monthly Review, reflected that the changing space of Victorian towns and lighting conditions were an “inestimable benefit” that needed to be set against a “decidedly lower sight average”. Similarly, a number of other newspapers reported on this phenomenon, headlining it as “urban myopia”.

In 1898, a feature published in The Scottish Review – ironically entitled “The Vaunts of Modern Progress” – proposed that defective eyesight was “exclusively the consequence of the present conditions of civilised life”. It highlighted that many advances being discussed in the context of “progress” – including material prosperity, expansion of industry and the rise of commerce – had a detrimental effect on the body’s nervous system and visual health.

Reading advice from JD Browning’s 1887 book Our Eyes and How to Preserve Them from Infancy to Old Age.

Wellcome Library

Another concern of the time – sedentariness – was also linked to the rise in eye problems. Better transport links and new leisure activities that required the person to be seated meant people had more time to read. Work changed as well, with lower-class jobs moving away from manual labour and the written word thought to have superseded the spoken one. While we now focus on “screen time”, newspapers and periodicals emphasised the negative effects of a “reading age” (the spread of the book and popular print).

Education to blame

In a similar manner to today, schools were blamed for the problem too. Reading materials, lighting conditions, desk space, and the advent of compulsory education were all linked to the rise in diagnosed conditions. English ophthalmologist Robert Brudenell Carter, in his government-led study, Eyesight in Schools, reached the balanced conclusion that while schooling conditions may be a problem, more statistics were required to fully assess the situation. Though Carter did not wish to “play the part of an alarmist”, a number of periodicals dramatised their coverage with phrases such as “The Evils of Our School System”.

The problem with all of these new environmental conditions was that they were considered “artificial”. To emphasise this point, medical men frequently compared their findings of poor eye health against the superior vision of “savages” and the effect of captivity on the vision of animals. This in turn gave a more negative interpretation of the relationship between civilisation and “progress”, and conclusions were used to support the idea that deteriorating vision was an accompaniment of the urban environment and modern leisure pursuits – specific characteristics of the Western world.

And yet the Victorians were undeterred, and continued with the very modern progress that they blamed for eyesight problems. Instead, new protective eyewear was developed that sought to protect the eye from dust and flying particles, as well as from the bright lights at seaside resorts, and artificial lighting in the home.

Despite their fears, the country did not become “purblind”. Neither is Britain now an “island full of round-backed, blear-eyed book worms” as predicted. While stories reported today tend to rely on more rigorous research when it comes to screen time and eye health, it just goes to show that “modernity” has long been a cause for concern.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Steps you can take to lower your risk of macular degeneration or slow its progression include not smoking, eating lots of dark leafy green vegetables, wearing sunglasses to block ultraviolet light, and taking one or more supplements formulated to support macular health. There are also treatments specific for wet A.M.D., including laser surgery, photodynamic therapy and drugs that are injected into the eye to slow the growth of abnormal blood vessels.

Diabetic retinopathy, the cause of most blindness in American adults, also affects the light-sensitive retina, damaging the vision of more than half of people with diabetes age 18 or older. The most effective preventive is maintaining a normal level of glucose in the blood through medication and a proper balance of diet and exercise. Blood glucose should be routinely monitored, high blood pressure effectively treated and smoking avoided entirely.

Glaucoma, another leading cause of blindness, involves a rise in fluid pressure inside the eye that damages the optic nerve. It affects more than four million Americans, about half of whom don’t know they have it, and is especially common among African-Americans and Hispanics. It can be detected with a comprehensive eye exam, which should be done annually for African-Americans and those with a family history of the condition.

Although glaucoma is not curable, treatment to lower pressure in the eye with prescription eye drops and, in some cases, pills or surgery can control the condition.

Cataracts are the most common cause of vision loss among people over 40. They involve a gradual clouding of the lens, a normally transparent tissue directly behind the iris and pupil that helps to focus images on the retina. As cataracts progress, it becomes increasingly difficult to see clearly, impairing the ability to read, drive or recognize faces.

Preventing or slowing the development of cataracts involves protecting the eyes from sun damage, not smoking, consuming a diet rich in vegetables and fruits and, if you have diabetes, keeping blood sugar under control.

In years past, doctors often advised patients with cataracts to wait until they were far advanced before removing them surgically. This is no longer the case. Cataract surgery is now done when the condition begins to affect a person’s quality of life or interferes with the ability to perform normal activities.

The surgery is nearly always done under local anesthesia on an outpatient basis. If both eyes have cataracts, as is usually the case, the second eye is typically treated some weeks after the first to avoid the rare risk of a postoperative infection in both eyes. The operation involves removing the clouded lens and, in most cases, replacing it with a clear artificial lens that often gives patients better vision than they had even before developing cataracts.

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