Eye Care

Making people aware of the importance of regular eye health checks and the availability of treatment for eye disease is important. As mentioned above, all too often people only have eye tests if they notice that there is something wrong with their eyes or if they need new glasses or contact lenses.

Thinking about prevention of eye disease is not on most people’s horizon. Failure to have regular eye tests is a symptom of a larger problem: most people are unaware that there are various risk factors that contribute to their chances of developing eye disease and that some of these risks can be reduced. The recent survey found that only 10 per cent of respondents thought that sight loss was avoidable through a healthy lifestyle.

This is probably a reflection of the fact that age is seen as the strongest risk factor for the major eye conditions affecting older people (AMD, cataract, glaucoma). However, a healthy lifestyle can make a difference because it helps to reduce the overall risk of eye disease by avoiding additional strong risk factors. Eating a diet low in fat but rich in vegetables (especially green leafy vegetables), nuts and fish, controlling body weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, all of these steps can help prevent eye disease.

Most importantly, people need to be made aware that smoking is one of the strongest risk factors. In a recent survey that asked people whether they thought that smoking could harm their sight, only 49 per cent of respondents agreed. Yet smoking is the main avoidable risk factor for both cataracts and age-related macular degeneration

More needs to be done to raise awareness of different eye diseases and associated risk factors. Smokers need to know of their significantly increased risk of developing AMD and cataracts. People in general need to realize that a healthy diet increases their chances of avoiding sight loss in later life.

Without this knowledge people are unable to make informed decisions about aspects of their lifestyles that affect their eye health. We need to empower people to look after their eye health rather than allowing the widespread ignorance about eye health to continue.

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