What general precautions can I take to protect the health of my eyes and the quality of my vision?

Many of us take our general health and health of our eyes for granted, but there are a number of ways to preserve vision and to keep our eyes healthy.

To start with, eat healthy; the addition of green leafy vegetables to diet adds a good source of antioxidants, which are good for the retina.

Regular exercise increases blood circulation to all vital organs, including to the eyes.

If you are a smoker, quitting smoking is the single most important action you can take to protect your eyes as smoking causes changes in your blood vessels and causes long-term damage to the blood vessels in the eyes.

Talking to your family about their health history is very important because some of the most serious eye diseases — such as glaucoma — are hereditary; family history is one of the most important pieces of information that an ophthalmologist likes to know, especially information about eye problems in the family.

Have regular eye examinations if your family physician recommends an eye check, especially if you have diabetes or hypertension.

Protect yourself against the sun by wearing sunglasses and/or a hat when outside as the sun causes changes to the lens of the eye, resulting in the early formation of cataracts.

Our eyes have a protective tear film that can be washed away by the chlorine in pool water, leaving you feeling a burning sensation in the eyes, or the sensation of a foreign body, stinging and redness and at times blurred vision. Simple steps like washing your eyes after swimming, wearing swimming goggles and using lubricating eye drops will help to minimise the above.

People who wear contact lenses should not use them while swimming, as the pool water can get trapped behind the contact lens and be a source of sight-threatening infections.

Your eyes are precious so look after them; wear eye protection when necessary, even when doing simple ‘Do It Yourself’ jobs around the home where a simple task like hammering a nail into a wall needs to be done with extreme care.

Dr Irfan Khan is consultant ophthalmologist at Moorfields Eye Hospital.

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