Eye Protection Tips
1. Sunglasses/ UV filter
Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays and glare. UV ray exposure can cause a painful, temporary condition called photokeratitis, which is literally a sunburn on the surface of your eyeball. Long-term exposure to UV rays can increase your risk of developing serious conditions such as cataracts and Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD).
Sunglasses also protect you from glare, which is nearly always present during daylight hours, whether the sun is shining or not. Bright reflections off shiny surfaces, like vehicles or buildings, can subject the eyes to too much light. This causes irritation and discomfort as your pupils contract, your eyelids narrow and the muscles around your eyes constrict as you squint to see properly. Besides being painful, glare can also be a dangerous distraction during driving or sporting activities.
The best way to protect against this damage is to use a UV filter that stops most of the harmful rays of the sun entering the eyes. Most prescription glasses now have a built in UV filter, if you have a regular pair of glasses it may be worth asking your optometrist to make sure that they include a UV filter. Many brands of contact lenses now also have UV protection.
Sunglasses are also an excellent way of protecting your eyes from harmful UVA and UVB rays contained in sunlight. Many tints are available and the lightness or darkness and the colour of the tint are largely a matter of personal choice. Good sunglasses should offer 99 to 100 per cent UVA and UVB protection. If you are unsure, ask your eye care professional for guidance.
2. Regular eye tests
Everyone should have their eyes examined at least once every two years - even if there is no change in your vision. An eye examination can often pick up the first signs of an eye condition before you notice any changes in your vision. This can lead to you getting vital treatment at the right time, which could save your sight.
Meanwhile, there are 12 million children with visual impairment due to uncorrected refractive errors worldwide. Parents should ensure regular eye screening for their children so that any refractive errors can be detected, treated and cured.
WHO recommends that visual health should be integrated in school’s curriculum as this can contribute to the development of a healthy school environment, promote good vision habits and facilitate early detection of eye problems. Additionally, trained schoolteachers are a valid resource for the identification of vision deficits in schoolchildren.
Smoking causes harm to the tissues of the eye. Smoking can double the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration. Smoking is also linked to the development of cataracts, it can make diabetes related sight problems worse and it increases free radicals, which accelerate ageing, and alter the body's ability to absorb or extract necessary vitamins and minerals from food.
4. Drink moderately
Heavy drinking of alcoholic beverages is a known risk factor. Moderate drinking lowers the risk of developing cataracts.
5. Eat healthily and watch your weight
Eating a diet low in saturated fats but rich in green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and broccoli, may help delay the progression of cataracts and AMD. Oranges, kiwis, nuts, seeds and oily fish may also help prevent and slow down some eye conditions. Taking supplements is not a substitute for a healthy diet. It is important to maintain a healthy weight. Obesity can increase the risk of developing diabetes, which can cause sight loss.
6. Consider vitamin supplements
If you are diagnosed with dry AMD, talk to your eye doctor about using a special formulation of high-dosage vitamin supplements, shown to be effective in lowering the risk of developing the advanced form of AMD.
7. Manage diabetes (if you already have it)
It’s particularly crucial if you have diabetes to control your blood pressure, sugar and lipid (fat) levels. You significantly lower your risk of diabetic retinopathy.
8. Safety first
Most eye injuries, at work or at home, can be prevented by following safety instructions and wearing the right protection gear. Protective eyewear includes: Non-prescription and prescription safety glasses, goggles, face shields, welding helmets and full-face respirators.
It is important to read and follow instructions when using chemicals. Some of which includes: point spray nozzles away from your eyes, use grease shields on frying pans, turn your face away when uncorking soda or champagne style bottles, pick up rocks and stones before mowing the lawn and trim low-hanging branches on trees in your yard. Likewise, safety for children is vital. Teach children how to safely handle knives, scissors and pencils. Also keep harsh chemicals, spray cans and glues out of a child’s reach, avoid buying toys with sharp points or edges; toys with arrows, bullets and missiles. Remember to discard or repair old or damaged toys. Loose parts and broken pieces are dangerous. Ensure children wash their hands after playing with slimy gel and gooey plastic toys. The chemical residue can easily get into a child’s eyes and cause irritation. Read warnings and other safety messages on toy packaging together with your child before play. Teaching your child how to play safely can help prevent unnecessary eye injuries.
9. First Aid for eye injuries
· Correct treatment following an eye injury can prevent the loss of sight. Medical help should be sought as soon as possible. Call your ophthalmologist, your optometrist, your family physician or go to a nearby hospital emergency room immediately!
· Specks in the Eye: Never rub your eye. First try pulling your upper lid down over your lower lid allowing the lashes to brush the speck from the inside of the upper lid. Blink a few times and let the eye move the particle out. If the speck remains, keep the eye closed and seek medical assistance.
· Blows to the Eye: Apply an ice-cold compress immediately for about 15 minutes to reduce pain and prevent swelling. A black eye or blurred vision could signal internal eye damage. See your doctor immediately.
· Cuts of the Eye and Lid: Bandage the eye lightly and seek immediate medical help. Do no attempt to wash the eye or remove an object. Never apply pressure and be careful not to rub the eye.
· Chemical Burns: Flood the eye with water immediately, using your fingers to keep the eye open as wide as possible. Put your eye under a faucet or pour water from a clean container gently and continuously on your eye for at least 15 minutes. Roll the eyeball around as much as possible. Do not use an eye cup and do not bandage the eye. After these steps have been taken, seek medical help.
10. Use an Amsler Grid
Using an Amsler Grid will likely help catch wet AMD in the early stages, when it’s much easier to treat. Wet AMD causes significant vision loss, usually very quickly. The Amsler Grid – a test you can easily do at home – is highly recommended if you are over 50 and/ or have a family history of AMD.