Macular degeneration is the leading cause of severe vision loss in people over age 60. Macular degeneration occurs when the central portion of the retina, known as the macula, deteriorates. The retina is the light-sensing nerve tissue at the back of the eye. Because the disease develops as a person ages, it is often referred to as age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Although macular degeneration is almost never a totally blinding condition, it can be a source of significant visual disability. There are two main types of age-related macular degeneration: dry AMD and wet AMD. Currently, the only treatment for dry AMD is nutritional supplements referred to as AREDS vitamins (they can be bought over-the-counter without a prescription). However, the treatment of wet macular degeneration has been revolutionized by a class of molecules called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) inhibitors. These medications are delivered with injections into the eye. Patients with wet AMD have to be examined frequently and may need injections every 2-3 months to prevent further vision loss.
Diabetic Eye Disease
Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is the leading cause of blindness due to injury or eye disease among Americans younger than age 65. Diabetic retinopathy occurs when blood vessels in the retina change. Sometimes these vessels swell and leak fluid or even close off completely. In other cases, new, abnormal blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina. This can cause severe vision loss and even blindness. Controlling your blood sugars with the assistance of your primary care doctor or an endocrinologist is the best thing you can do to protect your eyes. Patients without diabetic retinopathy or those with mild diabetic retinopathy require yearly examination. Those with more advanced stages of retinopathy may need to be seen at more frequent intervals. In some cases, laser treatment or even injections of steroids and anti-VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) medications may be necessary to prevent further vision loss.
Epiretinal membranes typically progress slowly and affects central vision by causing blurring and distortion. Later, the pulling of the membrane on the macula may cause swelling. Epiretinal membranes resemble scar tissue that grows over the macula, the tissue near the center of the eye’s retina. This area is responsible for central vision. It’s sometimes called a macular pucker, macular wrinkling, scar tissue or cellophane membrane. Many cases of epiretinal membrane are mild and require no treatment. If your vision is significantly affected, your doctor may recommend a vitrectomy with membrane peeling. The procedure improves vision by smoothing out the macula. Most patient recover good vision, but some continue to describe wrinkling or distortion of the vision.
Flashes & Floaters
Many people see what looks like small specks of dust or cobwebs drifting across their vision. Blinking does not get rid of the specks or webs. Floaters may appear to be in front of your eye, but they are actually inside your eye. What you actually see are the shadows they cast on the retina. As you age, the vitreous gel may start to liquify or shrink and protein clumps or strands form inside liquified vitreous. Floaters can become very noticeable when the vitreous gel pulls away from the back wall of the eye, causing a posterior vitreous detachment. In some cases, as the vitreous is pulling free from the retina, it doesn’t want to separate and a retinal tear is created. A retinal tear is always a serious problem, as it can allow fluid to move under the retina and lead to a retinal detachment. The appearance of floaters may be alarming, especially if they develop suddenly and are accompanied by flashing lights or a curtain shade moving into your field of vision from any direction. You should see an ophthalmologist right away if you develop such symptoms, especially if you have high myopia (nearsightedness) or if you are over 45 years of age.
Retinal Tear or Detachment
When the retina detaches, it separates from the back wall of the eye and is removed from its blood supply and source of nutrition. The retina will degenerate and lose its ability to function if it remains detached.
If a retinal detachment is not repaired, vision can be permanently lost. The causes of retinal detachment can be divided into three main categories:
- Rhegmatogenous Retinal Detachment: Due to a retinal break or tear that allows the liquid vitreous that fills the center of the eye ball to pass through the break and detach the retina. This is the most common type of detachment.
- Exudative Retinal Detachment : Due to leakage from under the retina which creates fluid (exudate) that detaches the retina. Tumors and inflammatory disorders can create exudative detachments.
- Traction Retinal Detachment : Due to pulling on the retina usually from fibro–vascular tissue within the vitreous cavity. Proliferative diabetic retinopathy is a common cause of traction retinal detachments.
A macular hole is a small break in the macula, located in the center of the eye’s light-sensitive tissue called the retina. The macula provides the sharp, central vision we need for reading, driving, and seeing fine detail. A macular hole can cause blurred and distorted central vision. Macular holes are related to aging and usually occur in people over age 60. The symptoms are similar to those of someone with age-related macular degeneration, but these are two different disease. Unlike age-related macular degeneration, macular holes can be surgically repaired and the vision can improve dramatically. The success of the surgery hinges on maintaining a face-down position for extended periods of time.
There are 4 major types of vascular occlusions that occur in the eye: (1) central retinal vein occlusion (CRVO), (2) branch retinal vein occlusion (BRVO), (3) central retinal artery occlusion (CRAO), and (4) branch retinal artery occlusion (BRAO). Patients typically experience a rapid loss of vision or wake up and notice a significant decrease in vision. This can occur without symptoms. Risk factors include atherosclerosis, high cholesterol or triglycerides, hypertension, and diabetes. Vision sometimes improves on its own, but permanent deficits can remain. There are not many well-proven treatments for vascular occlusions in the eye. Secondary problems like neovascular glaucoma can occur later, so continued follow-up with an ophthalmologist is critically important.
Eye Care Guide – Caring for Your Eyes After 60
How to Care For Your Eyes After 60
It’s been a long time coming since I had the idea to write an article on the eyes.
After all, vision changes and vision loss are one of the many problems we all encounter as we get older.
Although we understand perfectly well that these issues are a natural part of ageing, it can be frustrating having to deal with vision loss. For example, not being able to read small text, like you once could.
So I wanted to cover this topic in quite some detail!
Now at this stage. You may be thinking. “But Mike, you’re a Physiotherapist what do you know about the eyes?”
And well, yes, this is true! But I do know health and I do know exercise.. And, fortunately, I also have a Sister, Lexie (who you may have seen floating around in the More Life Health Facebook Community), who just so happens to be an Orthoptist.
So with our powers combined, I bring you this guide to caring for the eyes after 60.
In this guide we will cover the eye in detail, including – the anatomy of the eye, common eye conditions that affect seniors, we will also look at what spending time on screens (iPhones, laptops, computers, TVs etc) does to our eyes and we will also cover all that you need to improve your eye health and maybe even your vision.
Let’s get into it!
WHAT IS COVERED IN THIS GUIDE:
HOW YOUR EYES WORK – ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW
Our eyes are one of our most precious organs.
Not only are they, in my opinion, the most beautiful part of the body, they also allow us to see the world around us. And yes – eyes are, in fact, organs of the visual system.
And just like any other organ in the body, eyes are comprised of an intricate network of nerves, vessels, and muscles.
So, how do our eyes actually work? To get a better grasp of this, let’s dive a bit into the anatomy of the eyes.
Extraocular Muscles Of The Eye
The eye socket, also known as the orbit, is connected to six muscles that allow our eyes to move up and down freely. These muscles are called extraocular muscles and they’re attached to the sclera, a layer of tissue that stretches around the eyeball.
Following so far? Okay, let’s dig a bit deeper.
The most superficial layer of the eyes is a clear membrane that covers the front. This is called the conjunctiva. Its function is to protect and lubricate the eyes by producing tears and mucus.
Now, if we look at the front of eye, we first find a clear layer called the cornea, whose job is to refract light.
Behind the cornea is the anterior chamber, a space filled with a fluid called aqueous humour. Despite its name, there is nothing funny about the aqueous humour; this clear fluid is actually responsible for maintaining the pressure in our eyes and nourishing the lens.
Anatomy of The Eye
Right behind the anterior chamber, we can find the iris and the pupil. It’s the iris that people refer to when they compliment the beautiful colour of your eyes. This is also the part of the eye where most of the magic happens. Depending on how much light enters the eyes, the muscles of the iris will either dilate (widen), or constrict (narrow) the pupils.
The lens is situated right behind the pupil. The lens works together with the cornea to refract the light that enters the eye. What’s also interesting, is that the lens can change its shape to help maintain focus on close objects.
Between the lens and the back of our eyes, we can find the vitreous cavity. Inside the cavity, there’s a substance called vitreous humour whose role is to nourish the eyes and help them retain their shape. Once light enters our eyes, it passes through the lens and the vitreous humour until it reaches the retina.
The retina is a thin layer of tissue on the back of the eye. It is one of the major players in the eye, as it gives us our central and peripheral vision. It’s comprised of photoreceptors, cells which process colour and black and white shades (that help us see in the dark.)
The retina is also responsible for converting light into signals that are then transmitted to the brain through the optic nerve. The optic nerve is the final stage – it uses its nerve fibres to send the electrical impulses into the visual cortex. Once there, our brain converts this information into images and we are able to see.
Easy peasy, right?
The easiest way to understand vision and sight is to think of the eyes as a camera device. The cornea of the eye and the lens of the camera work in a similar way.
They both have a spherical curvature that allows them to see what’s in front of them. The iris (coloured part) of the eye can be compared to a camera’s aperture (opening of the lens). Their function is to control how much light enters the eye (or the camera) so they will narrow or widen accordingly.
More similarities can be found when we consider things like focus, scope, and film. Both the eye and the camera can focus on single objects and blur out the rest. Thanks to the curvature of the eyes and the device lens, they’re also able to widen their field of view.
Finally, the film in a camera device has the same function as the retina. It collects the reflected light and converts it into images.
Amazing, isn’t it?
Now that we understand how the eyes work, we can now take a look at what happens to these eyes as we get older and then get to conditions in the eyes.
THE AGEING EYE: WHAT HAPPENS TO OUR EYES AS WE GET OLDER
As we grow older, we experience an onset of changes all over the body.
Some of these changes are more obvious, while others tend to creep up on us when we least expect them. Many of these bodily transitions occur gradually, spanning over a course of years. This is exactly what happens with our eyes.
Our eyes, just like every other organ in our body, deteriorate with age. It’s nature.
Although every person is different, most people tend to experience the first changes somewhere around the age of 40. This is the time when the eye lens loses its elasticity and is not able to focus on close objects anymore. This is the reason why most middle-aged people hold their phones farther away when trying to read text messages, for example.
We call this condition presbyopia and it is nothing to be afraid or ashamed of. Presbyopia occurs naturally in every living person over the age of 40.
Similarly, myopia or nearsightedness is a condition in which you’re unable to focus on faraway objects. And hyperopia or farsightedness in which you are unable to focus on near (and sometimes far away) objects. This is the time when you’re most likely to visit your Optometrist and get a prescription for eyeglasses or contact lenses.
Although presbyopia, hyperopia and myopia are quite common, they can be managed. Prescription eyeglasses and contact lenses, as well as corrective surgery, can greatly alleviate these issues, as well as keeping yourself in the best possible health.
However, there are some more conditions that can affect vision and eyesight, which are more severe and can result in complete vision loss.
As time goes by, you might notice other issues with your eyesight as well.
We’ll discuss these conditions in more detail in the following chapter.
EYE CONDITIONS IN SENIORS
Let’s now dig a bit deeper into some eye conditions that affect seniors so you have the knowledge of what to look out for which can help prevent any serious eye issues.
If your tear ducts are unable to produce enough moisture, you’re most likely suffering from dry eyes. Even though the condition doesn’t sound too serious, it can cause a lot of discomfort and irritation.
As we get older, we experience a lot of hormonal changes in our body. Loss of tears in our eyes is one of the changes that occur with old age. While dry eyes can affect both men and women, the condition is more prevalent in women who have gone through menopause.
Dry eyes are fairly common and there are multiple ways to prevent the symptoms of this condition. Creating a suitable environment in your home or office is one of the first steps towards preventing dry eyes. This includes controlling the amount of moisture in the air (using a humidifier,) or avoiding direct exposure to the AC, blow dryers, fans, heaters, etc.
Protective eyewear is also a suitable solution, especially in settings with a lot of dry air or wind. Another thing you can do to alleviate the symptoms of dry eyes is to take regular breaks from electronic devices. Avoiding cigarette smoke and using artificial tears (lubricating eye drops) is also a good idea for dealign with dry eyes.
For severe dry eye, plugs can be inserted into the tear ducts to keep tears within the eye and prevent them draining away. If you are suffering from severe dry eye, speak to your optometrist or ophthalmologists as to whether this may be a suitable solution for you.
Blurred vision, or not being able to see objects in fine detail could be a result of something minor such as incorrect eyeglass prescription, presbyopia, hyperopia cataracts or myopia, but it could also signify some underlying diseases as well.
Some risk factors associated with blurry vision include diabetes, high blood pressure and certain immune disorders. If you suffer from such conditions and start exhibiting vision problems, make an appointment with your appropriate medical professional.
However, if you experience a sudden onset of blurry or double vision, you’ll want to contact your doctor immediately. This is especially important if you get accompanying symptoms such as eye pain, headaches, dizziness, nausea, etc. These could be signs of strokes, brain tumours, multiple sclerosis, and other severe illnesses.
Cataracts are considered of the more common eye conditions. They usually develop over the course of years and often occur as a result of old age.
According to the National Eye Institute more than half of all Americans ages 80 or older either have cataracts or have had surgery to get rid of cataracts.
Some cataracts also occur as a result of heavy drinking, smoking, eye surgery, or other conditions such as diabetes. Although many people don’t experience any changes in the early stage, as cataracts grow larger, they may cause cloudy vision, faded colours, light sensitivity, and double vision.
Cataract surgery is a very common and safe procedure where the cloudy lens is replaced with a new artificial lens which will help restore eye sight.
FLOATERS AND FLASHES
You may have seen dots, squiggly lines or even cobwebs in your eyes at some time in your life. These become more noticeable when staring at a blank wall or sky on a clear day. These are known as floaters.
Floaters appear to quickly move away when you try to focus your gaze at them, and slowly drift when your eyes are still.
Flashes, as the name suggests, look like flashing lights or streaks of light in your field of vision.
Floaters and flashes are usually harmless and can disappear on their own over time. If you are getting them regularly or have a sudden increase in both or notice any changes with them it’s best to get checked by your eye doctor as it could indicate retinal damage.
AGE-RELATED MACULAR DEGENERATION (AMD)
Considered one of the main causes of permanent vision loss, age-related macular degeneration happens when the macula, the centre part of the retina, breaks down.
There are two types of macular degeneration – dry and wet. Dry macular degeneration manifests itself as small yellow residues in the macula. People with milder cases may experience dimmed or distorted vision, but the condition can worsen. If this occurs, it can lead to blind spots and loss of central vision.
The wet form, although less common, is also more severe. Wet macular degeneration happens as a result of blood vessels growing from underneath the macula. As the blood vessels rupture, they form scars, which results in permanent vision loss.
Those suffering from AMD may experience symptoms such as blurry or distorted vision, difficulty seeing in dim light, sensitivity to glare, seeing spots, as well as seeing straight lines appear wavy.
Although this condition is most common in those over the age of 50, other factors can also increase the risk of macular degeneration. Genetics, obesity, smoking, and cardiovascular disease are known risk factors for AMD. It is also believed that Caucasians are at greater risk of developing these conditions compared to other races.
Although glaucoma can affect people of all ages, it is most prevalent in older adults. This condition happens due to pressure build-up in the eyes, which damages the optic nerve. Glaucoma causes a gradual loss of sight and blindness, and unfortunately is not curable.
The most frightening thing about glaucoma is that it isn’t curable.
Most people suffering from glaucoma don’t experience any symptoms until it’s too late, so it’s best to know to look out for.
Depending on the type and stage of glaucoma, the condition can manifest itself in several ways. Tunnel vision and blind spots are common symptoms of open-angle glaucoma. Those suffering from narrow or acute angle-closure glaucoma may experience eye pain and redness, headaches, nausea, and blurred vision.
Black, Asian, and Hispanic people are more commonly affected by glaucoma than other races. Other risk factors include genetics, unhealthy lifestyle, high internal eye pressure, eye surgery, prolonged use of corticosteroids and eye drops, etc. Getting regular eye examinations can help detect glaucoma early on and possibly prevent more serious problems.
Eye or ocular melanoma is a type of cancer that affects the middle layer of the eye, called the uvea. There are many risk factors connected to eye melanoma, but the risks increase substantially with old age. Sometimes, people with this condition don’t have any symptoms, however, those that do may experience floaters, poor or loss of vision (especially peripheral) misshapen pupils, or dark spots on the irises. Eye melanoma often causes vision loss.
Some professionals believe that limiting sun exposure and wearing UV-protected sunglasses could reduce the risk of developing eye cancer.
Although not the most common of eye diseases, diabetic retinopathy occurs in some diabetic patients as a result of diabetes complications.
Diabetic retinopathy occurs when the blood vessels in the retina are damaged and can be present in people who suffer from either type of diabetes – type I or type II. While this condition isn’t exclusively linked to seniors, older age is a definite risk factor in developing type II diabetes.
This eye condition may cause blurred or fluctuating vision, dark spots, colour changes as well as vision loss.
Good and consistent control of blood sugar levels will significantly reduce the risk of long term vision damage. This can be achieved through regular exercise and good nutrition and medication (if required).
POSTERIOR VITREOUS DETACHMENT (PVD) and RETINAL DETACHMENT
Retinal detachment is a severe condition that causes no pain. It’s a situation where the retina pulls away (detaches) from its supportive tissue. Those who experience this emergency may see floaters and flashes and should contact their eye specialist straight away. There are three types of retinal detachment.
Remember earlier in the article we were looking at different structures within the eye and the substance called vitreous humour
Well as we age, the vitreous humour shrinks and pulls away from the retina. Usually it separates without any complications. This is a condition called “posterior vitreous detachment”. However sometimes, it can cause a tear allowing fluid to form between the layers of the retina, causing it to detach. If left untreated, a retinal detachment can cause blindness.
Retinal detachments can also be caused by eye injuries so it’s always important to wear protective goggles when playing certain sports (e.g. squash) or working with certain tools.
EPIRETINAL MEMBRANE (OR MACULA PUCKER) and MACULA HOLES
These can develop similarly to a retina detachment in that irritation and scar tissue (epiretinal membrane) or a hole can form in the central part of the retina- the macula, when the vitreous humour is pulling away from the retina.
Sometimes when the vitreous is detaching, it can rub and irritate the macula then as it heals, it forms a scar tissue over the macula. This scar tissue can cause the macula to wrinkle or pucker.
As the macula is involved, symptoms can be similar to that of AMD such as trouble reading smaller print, blurry and distorted vision, straight lines appearing kinked or wavy, grey shadow/spot in central vision.
There is nothing that can prevent an epiretinal membrane or macula hole and in most cases, the best treatment is monitoring them (early stages) or surgery (later stages) however regular eye check ups can ensure they are detected early.
Sometimes also known as watering eyes, epiphora is characterised by an overproduction of tears. In the case of epiphora, the tears will flow down the face, instead of through the usual nasolacrimal system.
There are a few factors that can cause watering eyes, but an obstructed tear outflow tract or misaligned tear ducts, caused by sagging of the lower eyelid(s) away from the eyeball, are often the cause and are a result of ageing.
Some cases of epiphora can be treated with antibiotics or by probing in the ophthalmologists rooms, while others may require surgery.
Some types of epiphora may go away on their own without any treatment. Epiphora may occur as a result of allergies, common colds, or an eyelid stye and generally passes without medical intervention.
If there are other symptoms present such as pain, yellow or green discharge or vision changes, it may be a sign of infection. Make sure to clean your contact lenses and wash your hands regularly as to avoid spreading germs to your eyes, and make sure to see your doctor.
ECTROPION AND ENTROPION
The most common cause of these two eyelid conditions is ageing. As we get older, our eyelids can lose tension due to weakening of the muscles and tendons that support them, causing the lower eyelids to sag down (ectropion) or roll inwards (entropion). Symptoms of these conditions include watery and/or dry eyes, irritated eyes, sensitivity to light and in more severe cases – corneal ulceration.
Temporary relief from symptoms can be achieved through ocular lubricants (eye drops, gels or ointments). Taping of the eyelids with special skin tape to help support them or prevent them from rolling in can also help, especially while sleeping. (Be sure to speak to your doctor or optometrist who can show you the safe and correct way to do this before attempting it yourself). Surgery may also be recommended as a more definitive treatment option.
TIA (TRANSIENT ISCHAEMIC ATTACK)
TIA is a type of mini-stroke that usually lasts only for a couple of minutes. In most cases, TIA doesn’t cause any permanent damage, but one of its symptoms includes blurred vision or blindness. Some professionals believe that these brief attacks are early warning signs of future strokes. It is said that the risk of transient ischaemic attacks increases after the age of 55.
There are certain precautions you can take to lower the chances of experiencing a transient ischaemic attack. Limiting cholesterol, sodium, alcohol and fat intake is said to reduce the risks of TIA. Also, healthy eating and regular exercise can help keep your blood pressure in check, which can lower the chances of both TIA and strokes in general.
RETINAL VEIN OCCLUSION
Often referred to as a “stroke in the eye”, a retinal vein occlusion is caused by a blood clot in a retinal vein.
It is a less common condition, affecting 1-2% of people over the age of 40 although most cases occur in people over the age of 60. The amount of vision loss is significant and risk factors other than age include high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, smoking and being overweight. Therefore, the precautions you can take are similar to those precautions for TIA above.
Pterygium, conjunctiva, eye web, or surfer’s eye are all used to describe a condition in which a tissue growth appears on the conjunctiva and sometimes the cornea. While the true causes of pterygium are unknown, it is believed that sun exposure, geographic setting, and age are risk factors for this condition. Surfer’s eye can usually be treated with lubricants, although some more serious cases may require surgery.
Being exposed to certain elements such as wind, sand, pollen, and smoke can increase the chances of pterygium. The most effective solution for preventing the development of pterygium is to wear protective gear (sunglasses, hats, etc.) and to limit your exposure to the previously mentioned elements.
A common eye disorder which affects the eyelids, eyelashes and sometimes tear production. Blepharitis is characterised by inflamed, red, and scaly eyelids.
Treatments such as antibiotics and steroid eye drops do exist however the condition is chronic in nature and tends to come back. Eyelid inflammation affects both men and women and the average age of those affected is around 50.
Most of the time, blepharitis is a result of excessive amounts of bacteria found in your eyelids. To minimise the symptoms of this condition, professionals recommend regularly washing your hands and face and not touching irritated eyes with fingers, and also practicing good eyelid hygiene.
Wearing eyeglasses instead of contact lenses is also known to help with symptoms of blepharitis.
This is a common condition in seniors, and proper daily, long term eyelid hygiene is very important for its management and overall eyelid health. If you suffer from this condition, ensure you have spoken to your Optometrist or Opthalmologist about proper eyelid hygiene techniques and you are undertaking it daily.
A condition in which the temporal arteries become damaged or inflamed is called temporal, cranial, or giant cell arteritis.
According to the American College of Rheumatology, people over the age of 50 are more likely to suffer this condition. Temporal arteritis can cause serious complications if left untreated such as blindness, vision loss, internal bleeding, and even death.
Double vision, fatigue, loss of appetite, shoulder and jaw pain are all associated with temporal arteritis. Those experiencing such symptoms should seek immediate medical assistance. Temporal arteritis is not curable, but there are certain treatments aimed at minimising tissue damage.
Depending on the severity of the condition, your doctor may prescribe medication, but also some lifestyle changes. Quitting smoking and getting the right amount of exercise could be beneficial in some cases.
As you might have noticed, this list includes some common eye conditions, but also several rare and more severe diseases that could affect your vision.
However, one thing that they all have in common is their prevalence among the elderly. While this is certainly disheartening, it does not mean that there’s nothing you can do about it.
THE EFFECT TECHNOLOGY HAS ON OUR EYES
Another factor, that can cause issues with the eye, is the overuse of technology…..
I can still remember my parents yelling at me not to sit too close to the telly so I wouldn’t go blind.
At first, I wrote it off to those old wives’ tales adults used to scare children with, but as I got older I started reading into it more.
It’s no secret that we are spending way too much time on screens. A study conducted in 2017 shows that Australians spend over one-third of their day in front of a screen.
We have become overly dependent on technology; social networking, online banking, paying bills – nowadays, we all use apps and online services for almost everything.
So how does this relate to our eyesight? Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS), also known as digital eye strain, refers to a group of eye-related issues caused by excessive use of electronic devices, such as smartphones, computers, tablets, etc.
Although eye strains are not considered a disease on their own, they do cause a fair share of vision problems like blurred vision, dry eyes, and severe discomfort.
What is it about electronic devices that cause so much harm?
Two words – blue light.
Blue light is everywhere around us. Sunlight is the biggest source of blue light, but it can also be found in some man-made devices; these include fluorescent lights, CFL and LED light bulbs, flatscreen TVs, smartphones, tablets, etc. Now, blue light isn’t all that bad, it can elevate mood and increase awareness, regulate the circadian rhythm, and even promote healthy eyesight development in children.
But, there is a limit to everything and blue light is not an exception to the rule. The amount of time we spend absorbing these rays and the proximity of these devices are what causes unwanted effects.
Research suggests that prolonged screen time can cause slow degeneration of the retina, which can lead to more serious problems such as cataracts, and age-related macular degeneration.
The best thing to do for your eyes to avoid any digital eye strain, is to spend less time on screens. Get outdoors, preferably into nature and look far into the distance.
With the lifestyles we live today it may be difficult to spend less time looking on screens.
Fortunately, there are ways to alleviate the symptoms of digital eye strain by implementing some minor lifestyle changes (which we will cover in the chapter below).
In the following few sections, we’ll discuss what you can do to preserve your eyesight and protect it from harm, and we’ll also go through some exercises you can do to keep your eyes healthy.
CARING FOR YOUR EYES: WHAT YOU CAN DO!
Although we aren’t able to bend the laws of nature and stop the natural degeneration of our body, we can do many things to keep ourselves in the best possible health and CAN prevent certain issues.
Along with old age, multiple factors can affect one’s vision. With advances in technology and new knowledge, there are many tools that can be utilised and new, healthier habits can be incorporated into your life that will go along way in helping you keep those eyes healthy long into the future.
Some of the following eye care tips are more obvious than others, but they’re all equally important when it comes to keeping your eyes in top-notch condition.
ORGANISE REGULAR EYE CHECKS
It’s important to have your eyes checked regularly by an eye doctor.
Make sure you get a comprehensive dilated eye exam, even if you notice no problems, every couple of years. Many eye conditions, even serious ones, don’t have noticeable symptoms.
With regular eye checks these conditions can be detected and appropriate treatment can be given.
Additionally, the right corrective lenses can help you see better, which will make life much easier and decrease your falls risk.
LOOK AFTER YOUR EYES WHEN USING TECHNOLOGY
When spending a lot of time looking at a screen of any sort, here is what you can do.
Keep a distance of about 60-65 cm between yourself and the device you’re using.
Take frequent breaks to allow your eyes to rest (every 20 minutes or so).
When taking breaks look far into the distance, to give your eyes a rest from looking so close to a screen. Follow whats known as the 20-20-20 rule. That is, if you find yourself on a screen for a long time, every 20 minutes, look at least 20 feet into the distance and hold for at least 20 seconds.
Reduce the brightness levels on your screen by using proper ambient lighting in your home/office. (Switch from fluorescent bulbs to soft white LED bulbs).
Reduce exposure to blue light. Screen filters for electronic devices and computer glasses with yellow-tinted lenses are said to be effective against blue light.
If you already use eyeglasses, invest in an anti-reflective lens coating. It minimises the amount of reflected light off the lens surface.
Blink more! We blink less often when staring at the screen and this can lead to dry eyes. Using a humidifier and artificial tears are also known to alleviate the symptoms of dry eyes.
Do eye exercises (covered below).
GET BETTER QUALITY SLEEP
Sleep is one of the, if not the most important component of a person’s health. It doesn’t come as a surprise that lack of sleep or low-quality sleep can take a toll on our eyes as well. Contrary to what you might believe, dark circles and puffy eyes should be the least of your worries when it comes to sleep deprivation.
Some of the most common eye-related issues caused by lack of sleep include dry, sensitive, or itchy eyes. However, eye muscle spasms are also a regular occurrence with those who don’t get enough sleep.
Studies show that obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) a condition in which breathing stops involuntarily for short periods during sleep, is a major risk for developing glaucoma. If you suffer from OSA or experience any related symptoms, it’s vital to consult with a doctor or a sleep specialist to evaluate the severity of the condition.
Getting a good night’s sleep can drastically decrease the chances of falling victim to such conditions.
For tips on getting a good night’s sleep, CLICK HERE.
Have you ever noticed that your eyes start twitching when you’re really upset or under a lot of stress? Or perhaps how the pupils dilate when you’re nervous or anxious? This is your body’s way of trying to communicate that something is wrong and you might not even be aware of it!
However, eye tremors aren’t the worst thing that can happen as a result of ongoing mental stress. Research suggests that high levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, is one of the leading causes of severe vision disorders such as optic neuropathy, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy.
While stress is something all of us deal with on a daily basis and we can’t completely isolate it from our lives, there are ways to reduce it. Decreasing stress is essential, especially in older age, and it can be done with just a bit of patience and effort.
For tips on how to decrease stress, CLICK HERE.
You probably don’t need me to tell you about all the negative effects smoking has on your health. But if the increased risk of the many health issues haven’t been enough to persuade you to finally cut down, or quit the habit, perhaps the fact that smoking can lead to vision loss may do so.
Research published in the journal Psychiatry Research suggests that “excessive use of cigarettes, or chronic exposure to their compounds, affects visual discrimination, supporting the existence of overall deficits in visual processing with tobacco addiction.” The study shows that consuming these neurotoxic chemicals found in cigarettes may cause overall colour vision loss, as well as a reduced ability to discriminate contrasts and colours.
Studies also show that heavy smoking increases the risk of developing dry eye syndrome, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration, and cataracts.
I’m no expert on how to quit smoking, but if you’re a smoker, you’re going to experience tremendous health benefits by quitting. Your doctor can help with this so speak to them about quitting on your next visit.
Another simple measure you can do to protect your eyes is to wear sunglasses when you’re outside.
Ultraviolet (UV) lights can greatly harm your lens, retina, and cornea, and wearing protective gear can alleviate the effects these harmful rays have on your eyes.
This is especially important for those living in places with higher UV rays. Here in Australia, we are exposed to up to 15% more UV rays than those living in Europe, for example.
Not to mention that with the right shades, your coolness levels increase exponentially! That could be reason enough to invest in a quality pair of sunglasses, don’t you think?
EAT A HEALTHY DIET
The importance of a well-balanced diet is indisputable.
Eating healthily isn’t just about maintaining the optimal weight; it can reduce the risk of chronic diseases and allow us to feel better physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Our vision is also impacted by the foods and drinks we consume, and the sooner we start implementing some healthy dietary changes, the sooner we’ll be able to see the positive effects. And in this case, I really mean SEE the effects.
Unfortunately, maintaining good eyesight isn’t as easy as simply munching on carrots all day. Maintaining a diet full of nutrient dense foods can greatly improve your eye health and protect your eyes from harm. Similarly, cutting out certain foods can also benefit your vision in the long run.
So, should we start with the good news or the bad news first?
A study published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology links Western-pattern diets to late-stage Age-related Macular Degeneration. People who regularly consume processed junk foods (think fast food, cakes, biscuits/cookies, potato chips, sweets, and soft drinks) are said to be in a higher risk of developing age-related macular degeneration.
What do most of these foods have in common? (Something I have written on before and the number one food you should be minimising and cutting out of your diet). They are highly processed, full of sugar amongst many other artificial ingredients and not to mention the high amount of refined vegetable oils.
The increased consumption of these highly processed and highly inflammatory oils may contribute to vision loss and have been shown to increase the risk of age-related macular degeneration .
Refined carbohydrates are also shown to be disadvantageous to eye health. Researchers report that consuming diets with a higher glycemic index can significantly increase the risk of developing advanced AMD. However, the study concludes that by improving the quality of carbohydrates we consume could diminish the negative effects. Simple changes such as replacing white bread with whole-grain bread could be a step in the right direction.
Nevertheless, certain nutrients have proven to be effective in diminishing and reducing the risks of these eye-related conditions.
Two eye-related eye disease studies, published in 2001 and 2013 found that vitamins E and C can reduce the risk of age-related decline in vision by up to 25%. The studies also found that nutrients like iron, lutein and zeaxanthin can counter the damage of free radicals and blue light.
Furthermore, a meta-analysis research associates vitamin E supplements with decreased risk of ARC (age-related cataracts.)
Multiple studies have also suggested diets high in vitamin A may be associated with decreased risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts.
A lack of vitamin A causes drying of the cornea, leading to a cloudy cornea, corneal ulcers and vision loss.
Zinc is found in high levels in our eyes and has been shown to protect against macular degeneration.
A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids could prevent proliferative retinopathies and restrict the progression of AMD, concludes a study published in the Nature Medicine.
Nutrient-dense real foods are recommended over supplements for better eye health (and general health). And before supplementing with any nutrient it’s always best to speak to your doctor.
How CBD can help for Macular Degeneration
Let’s look at how CBD can help for Macular Degeneration.
researchers discovered that the area of the eyes has cannabinoid receptors
Currently, there is no cure for this disease. Available medications, such as Lucentis and Avastin, slow or prevent the increase in vision loss. Injections applied directly to the eye reduce vision loss.
Although we need more research, correlations found between the healing powers of CBD, the functioning of age-related macular degeneration in an innovative Finnish study on glaucoma in 2002 prove its effectiveness. Published in the journal Pharmacology & Therapeutics, researchers discovered that the area of the eyes has cannabinoid receptors. This intricately complicated area of the body also forms part of the endocannabinoid system.
It had also showed that cannabinoids inhibit the growth of VEGF. The goal of administering the strenuous injection of drugs directly into the eye for patients with macular degeneration is. Because these drugs can stop the progression of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). However, it had also showed that cannabinoids do the same, with little or no severe side effects. A 2004 study by researchers at the Complutense University of Madrid, Spain in mice with gliomas (brain tumors), found that cannabinoids inhibited VEGF pathways, delaying tumor growth in mice. Two patients with glioma had the same effect.
You may be interested in how CBD can help for Meningitis