How Healthy are your Eyes?

Eyes are said to be the window to your soul (William Shakespeare)… so I guess tired, red and blood shot eyes aren’t really the look we should be going for.

In today’s blog I will be discussing ways to keep your eyes healthy and also how to spot the signs of serious eye disease!

Eye Facts:

The eye is a complex and amazing part of the body and works a bit like a digital camera.
Like many complex machines things can go wrong and one of those is losing your vision.
Did you know that there are around 2 million people in the uk with loss of sight and around 360k registered as blind or partially blind.
It’s easy to neglect your eyes as they rarely hurt when there’s a problem

Having an eye test won’t just tell you how good your vision is but it is also an important health check as we can spot many general health problems such as diabetes and high blood pressure by looking into the back of your eye.
It is also an important way to screen for eye conditions such as cataracts and glaucoma and to catch them early before too much damage is done.

As a GP the most common things I see in my clinic are Red eyes.
The redness normally suggests inflammation in the eye and in most cases this is caused by a minor eye condition such as conjunctivitis.

Warning signs of serious eye disease: If you have a red eye which is painful or associated with reduced vision, severe headache, extreme watering or increased sensitivity to light, then this could be a sign of something more severe and you should promptly see your GP

I’ve already mentioned conjunctivitis– a common eye condition which most of us suffer with from time to time.

When you have conjunctivitis there is inflammation of the conjunctiva, the thin layer of tissue that covers the eyeball and the inner lining of the eye lids.
Inflammation causes the blood vessels on the surface of the eye to swell which can give eyes the blood shot appearance and also they may feel gritty.
Conjunctivitis can be caused by infection such as a bacteria or virus getting into the eye.
It could be caused by an irritant such as chlorine or dust and it could be and allergy to something such as pollen.
Treatment can vary according to the cause by most cases of conjunctivitis can be easily settled without needed to see a dr.
If you have conjunctivitis there is a chance it could be caused by infection
Try to avoid spreading it you your other eye and wash hands regularly
Stop wearing makeup and using contact lens and do not share towels or flannels
The eye can be cleaned with a clean cold damp flannel and over the counter eye drops may be soothing
As with any medical problem if it’s not improving see your GP

Other eye conditions include:

Age related macular degeneration or AMD is one of the commonest causes of loss of vision in the UK.
It affects a small area at the back of the eye called the macular and tends to affect central vision leaving our peripheral or side vision intact

We don’t know the exact causes but the following factors do increase our risks:
Age – being more common over the age of 55
Women seem more likely to get it than men
There may be a genetic link too as sometimes it seems to run in families
Also lifestyle factors such as smoking , exposing the eyes to sunlight and poor diet

Signs you may have AMD:

  • you notice any difficulty with reading small print
  • straight lines start to look wavy or distorted
  • your vision isn’t as clear as it used to be

Go to see your optician for an eye check or see your GP.

Glaucoma -this is a serious eye condition that often runs in families
A sudden increase in the pressure inside your eyeball can put pressure on your important optic nerve and lead to loss of vision
Symptoms include:

  • a painful red eye
  • severe headache
  • your vision may be blurry or cloudy
  • you may see haloes around lights

See your GP immediately

Cataracts – a common eye condition
As we get older the lens inside our eye can become cloudy. I describe cataracts to my patients like looking through frosted glass.

They are caused by a number of things including old age ‘ trauma to the eye , diabetes and medications such as steroids
We think that smoking , too much exposure to sunlight and a poor diet can increase the risks
Cataracts normally develop slowly

  • People may experience misty or hazy vision
  • Lights seem to glare
  • Night vision may be worse
  • Colours may look different
  • It can be like looking through a frosted window

The treatment is to remove the clouded lens and replace it with an artificial lens
Cataract surgery is available for free on the nhs


Finally, I will leave you with some top tips

Protect your eyes from the sunlight. Just as our skin can be damaged by the suns harmful rays, so can the eyes. Always make sure you protect your eyes from UVA and UVB damage with good quality sunglasses.

Get your eyes checked by an optician yearly. Remember prevention is better than cure.

Don’t smoke

Eat well, I particularly recommend  eating  lots of brightly coloured fruit and vegetables. These are rich in carotenoids,  lutein and  zeaxanthin, all of which are essential for good eye health. Foods rich in Vitamin A, C and E also play a role.My top picks include broccoli, carrots, peppers, strawberries and citrus fruits.