Better diet, more mindfulness, less alcohol, more me-time...these are some of the most common new year's resolutions, but what about looking after our most important sense - our vision?
This post looks at seven simple strategies for better eye health in 2017.
1. Reduce screen time
Digital screen use is the number one factor behind the increase in dry eyes throughout the Western world. Eight hours at a desk is only part of the equation; add another few hours of Facebook, Netflix, online shopping and computer games and you could be staring at screens for over ten hours per day. This reduces blink-rate, which reduces the amount of oil in your tears and leads to evaporation of your precious tears. The newest digital screens also emit light in the toxic blue-violet part of the spectrum. Not as well known as ultra-violet light (which doesn't penetrate far into the eye and is associated with cataract and pterygium), blue-violet light is more penetrating and it is thought to be toxic to the retina and macula at the back of your eye. Try and limit screen time to working hours and take regular breaks. Look for screen technology (such as BenQ's range) that filters out blue-violet emissions.
2. Wear blue-blocking lenses
If you can't avoid screen-time, you can still protect your eyes by wearing glasses with blue-blocking lenses. These invisible filters can be worn with or without a spectacle prescription and provide complete protection from the harmful end of the spectrum.
3. Have a comprehensive eye test
Most serious eye diseases (such as glaucoma, macular degeneration etc.) don't happen overnight. Regular eye examinations (every one to two years) with your optometrist will test your unique eyes for a range of conditions and provide baselines for the future. There is no one simple test for a disease like glaucoma. Your optometrist will consider numerous different factors in determining your risk.
4. Eat for eye health
Omega-3s really are the building blocks of healthy cells. But the average Western diet is much richer in omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3s have been shown to improve both the quality and quantity of tears and thus improve the symptoms of dry eye sufferers. They can be incorporated into the diet (ask us for our delicious flax-oil breakfast recipe!) or taken as a fish oil or flax oil supplement. Probiotics address imbalances in the gut and can be beneficial if you suffer from rosacea - which is commonly associated with dry eyes. Micro-nutrients such as Vitamin D have also been shown to improve eye-health.
5. Check your contact-lenses
Do you love wearing contact lenses but wish they were more comfortable? They often can be, with the right supervision. Regular check-ups (every 6 months) with your optometrist will ensure you are getting the best and most up to date advice on the latest materials and designs, and the best wearing times for your particular eyes. Up to 50% of contact lens wearers fail in the first year and a staggering 70% fail within ten years. Buck the norm!
6. Replace your eye makeup (and never share!)
Eye makeup comes with an expiry date and for good reason. The surface of the eye itself is an almost sterile environment and yet the eye lids and lashes are covered with bacteria that form part of our biome. Mascara wands and eye shadow applicators are breeding grounds for bacteria and should be regularly replaced. Sharing make up is always a bad idea and can lead to cross-contamination and inflammation of the eye's delicate tissues.
7. Avoid preservatives
Whether its contact lens solutions or artificial tears, preservatives are not your friend. By their very nature they are toxic to living cells - including your own. Choose preservative-free options for your contact lens cleaning needs and your dry eye solutions and straight away your eyes will thank you for it.
There's no better time to have a comprehensive eye examination than the start of the year.
If you're in a health fund, most funds renew on January 1st for rebates on glasses and contact lenses. Call The Eye Practice on (02) 9290 1899 or make an appointment online today.