Everybody should have regular eye exams at least once every two years, as an optometrist can pick up early signs of an eye condition long before you notice any changes in your vision. People over 40 or with a family history of conditions such as glaucoma or diabetes should have an eye test every year. Optometrists can also detect conditions such as high blood pressure. Smoking is a major risk to eye health: research suggests that smokers are up to four times more likely than non-smokers to develop age-related macular degeneration, which gradually erodes central vision. Smoking when you have diabetes can lead to diabetic retinopathy, where raised blood sugar levels damage the retina and can cause blindness.
Ultra-violet light exposure also harms the eyes, and some studies suggest UVA and UVB rays may increase the risk of cataracts. Wear glasses or contact lenses with a built-in UV filter, or sunglasses to shield the eyes from the sun.
A healthy, balanced diet is beneficial to the long-term health of the eyes, especially fresh fruits and vegetables. It is important to combine this with regular exercise, as some eye conditions have underlying factors linked to poor cardiovascular health. Poor circulation can increase the risk of retinal vessel occlusion, where a blockage of blood vessels in the eye leads to sight loss.
Poonam Patel, an eye health information officer at the Royal National Institute of Blind People, was speaking to Lucinda Campbell