It's easy to neglect your eyes because they rarely hurt when there's a problem. Having an eye test won't just tell you if you need new glasses or a change of prescription – it's also an important eye health check. It can spot many general health problems and early signs of eye conditions before you're aware of any symptoms, many of which can be treated if found early enough.
Optometrists recommend that most people have an eye test about every two years. People over 40 and people from black or minority ethnic groups may need sight tests more often. Anyone can develop sight problems, but some people have a higher risk of eye disease. It's especially important to have regular eye tests if you are:
1. Above 60 years old
2. From certain ethnic groups – for example, people from African-Caribbean communities are at greater risk of developing glaucoma and diabetes, and people from south Asian communities are at a greater risk of developing diabetes; diabetic retinopathy, where the retina becomes damaged, is a common complication of diabetes.
3. Someone with a learning disability
4. From a family with a history of eye disease
Give up smoking
Smokers are much more likely to develop age-related macular degeneration and cataracts compared with non-smokers. Find out about the help and support available to stop smoking.
While it might seem odd that exercise can help the eyes, it can be important. Research shows that exercise may reduce the risk of sight loss, which can occur as a result of high blood pressure, diabetes, and narrowing or hardening of the arteries.
A healthy, balanced diet that includes a wide variety of fruit and vegetables will benefit your overall health, and may help keep the retina healthy.
Drink within the recommended limits
Heavy alcohol consumption is associated with an increased risk of early age-related macular degeneration.
To keep health risks from alcohol to a low level:
Men and women are advised not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis
Spread your drinking over three or more days if you regularly drink as much as 14 units a week
If you want to cut down, try to have several drink-free days each week
Keep tabs on your drinking with the Drinkware alcohol tracker.
Protect your eyes from the sun
Never look at the sun directly, even when something exciting is happening, such as an eclipse. Doing so can cause irreversible damage to your eyesight and even lead to blindness. Several studies also suggest sunlight exposure is a risk factor for cataracts. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat or sunglasses can help protect your eyes from UV rays.