Posted on 23/09/2019

Looking after your eyes in a modern world

Looking after your eyes in a modern world

In a world led by technology, staying informed about our eye health is becoming increasingly important.

Many people would not consider their eye health unless they experience an obvious problem with their eyes or vision, but our eye health is closely linked to our overall health and is something that people of all ages and in all professions should consider, even if they have perfectly good vision. There are many ways our eyes can get damaged and whilst some people are more prone to vision loss than others, it is important for everyone to look after their eyes.

Technology and screens

In the modern world, we spend a lot of time using screens. Whether we’re using our phone or tablet for leisure, studying on a laptop for school or working on an office desktop, using screens can take a toll on our eyes. Although there is no evidence to suggest working on screens every day has a long-term effect on our eyes, many people can experience short-term issues such as eye strain, headaches and blurred vision. There are many simple ways to minimise these problems:

  • Follow the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes look at something a minimum of 20 metres away for at least 20 seconds to help reduce eye strain
  • Adjust the display on your monitor to make it easier on the eyes. Try to adjust the brightness on your monitor or screen to a level you feel happy with – make sure it is not dazzling or too grey. The text size and contrast can usually be changed so you don’t have to strain to read. You can also change the text size on browsers and many other programmes by zooming in or out on the page
  • Alter your workstation to reduce any problems with your vision. Make sure your chair is adjusted suitably so you can rest your feet comfortably on the floor and maintain a good posture. If you’re using a desktop computer, the top of your screen should be roughly in line with your eyes to reduce unnecessary eye and neck strain
  • Reduce screen glare from lighting. The glare on your screen may be from bulbs, walls or windows and you may just need to move your monitor or fit some anti-glare screens to reduce it. Blinds or screens can also be used to minimise glare from windows and fewer lights or dimmer bulbs can be used if the indoor lighting is causing problems with your vision
  • Take breaks frequently. Whether you’re studying at University or spend most of your day sitting at a desk working, it is important to get up, stretch and take a walk regularly to give your eyes and body a break from your workstation
  • Change the colour temperature. For any screens with a colour display, such as laptop and phone screens, changing the colour from a blue light display to red or orange hue display can help to reduce eye strain. On smart phones this is often called a blue light filter that can be easily turned on from the drop-down home menu

Diet, exercise and health

“More than half of all sight loss cases in the UK are avoidable.”

Protecting your eyesight is closely linked to your overall health. Whilst younger people with great eye sight may not consider this to include them – it does. Having a good diet which includes plenty of vegetables and leading an active lifestyle can help to sustain better eye health and vision as you grow older. Overeating and lack of exercise are linked to diabetes and obesity which can both increase your risk of vision loss or impairment. Smoking and a high alcohol intake can also have a seriously negative impact upon your health, causing problems with your eyes and vision.

Regular eye tests: how often do you need them?

“In the UK there are over 16 million NHS sight tests every year.”

Regular eye tests are the best way to stay in the know about your eye health, even if you have clear vision. There are some conditions, such as glaucoma, where symptoms are sometimes not present or obvious, which is one of the reasons why eyes tests are so important. At a vision appointment, the specialist can pick up on any issues that you may not have been aware of and hopefully detect any problems at an early stage. Smaller, ongoing problems with your eyes, such as itching or soreness, should also be checked out with an optician or a doctor. The NHS recommends having an eye test every two years, unless you are recommended to have them more regularly by an optometrist.

Physical protection: goggles and sunglasses

“Thousands of eye related injuries are caused by sports and DIY accidents each year.”

Perhaps a more obvious way that we can look after our eyes is by physically protecting them from damage. For people working in an industrial job, it is important to wear goggles or other protective eye wear to shield eyes from any harmful particles, such as dust or wood and metal chippings. In a place of work, wearing safety goggles would be a mandatory requirement and enforced by health and safety, but it’s also important to remember this when carrying out DIY tasks at home.

Protecting our eyes from the sun is often seen as fashionable with the wide selection of sunglasses available to buy, but they are designed for a good reason. Sunglasses shield our eyes from harmful UV rays that can cause damage to different parts of the eye. If you’re buying a new pair of sunglasses, make sure they block UVA and UVB rays. For people who need prescription lenses, you can also have UV filters added to your regular glasses or get prescription sunglasses.

Glasses and contact lenses

“Sight loss due to refractive error can usually be corrected by wearing the right prescription glasses.”

Many people across the UK will experience vision impairments that can be corrected with prescription glasses or contact lenses. Myopia and hyperopia are two common eye conditions that are types of refractive error. They are more commonly known as short and long-sightedness. Short sightedness causes objects in the distance to be blurry and is believed to affect 1 in 3 people in the UK whilst long-sightedness usually affects people as they grow older and causes objects that are up-close to be blurry. See how vision appears with different conditions.

Long-sightedness can affect people of all ages, though this is rarer in younger people, and can cause unclear vision at all distances for some people. Many people with long-sightedness will need spectacles for certain activities, such as reading, and some people with either condition may need to wear glasses or contact lenses every day.

Want to find out more?

If you want to find out more about looking after your eyes, the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and Fight for Sight have plenty of information. They also offer supportive services and advice for people who have been affected by eye conditions and vision loss.

If you are concerned about your vision, or experience a problem with your eyes, it is important to make an appointment with your GP or optometrist to get them checked.

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