Eye health is not only maintained by taking care of the eyes, but also by maintaining overall health and improving lifestyle. The post-pandemic era has seen a sudden increase in dry eyes due to long hours of digital eye strain that has impaired our overall eye health.
Health experts warn that the rate of tear evaporation exceeds the rate of tear production, creating a significant imbalance that justifies the use of anti-glare goggles, the consumption of plenty of fluids, and the use of preservative-free artificial tear supplements to overcome the imbalance and thereby maintain homeostasis. The second most serious problem of global concern is obesity and diabetes, which are linked to a sedentary lifestyle, lack of exercise and consumption of junk food, which has serious consequences for eye health.
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr. Priyanka Singh (MBBS, MS, DNB, FAICO), Consultant and Eye Surgeon at Neytra Eye Center in New Delhi, recommended some habits that are necessary to follow daily for healthy eyes –
1) Eat healthy: Have plenty of vegetables and fruits for vitamin E, A and D. Fish like salmon and tuna are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. Include nuts and seeds (especially flaxseeds) in your diet which replenish omega-3 fatty acids and provide antioxidants to the eyes. Also, eggs and citrus fruits should be incorporated. Use a mixture of vegetables, oils, ghee, and oils fortified with vitamin A and D. Above all, drink plenty of water, that is, about 6 to 8 glasses of water a day.
2) Yoga and exercise: Be active not only to lose weight, but also to keep your heart and lungs healthy and to regulate normal blood sugar levels. It is advisable to perform eye exercises to keep the eye muscles strong.
3) Stop smoking and alcohol: Smoking and alcohol are not good for overall health and eyes too. They increase the risk of cataracts and can cause retinopathy, macular degeneration and optic neuropathy.
4) Reduce screen time: Reduce screen time as much as possible. Pause every 20 minutes for 20 seconds and look away from 20 feet. Use bluecut goggles.
5) Improve habits: Have a good sleep of at least 7-8 hours. Go out and walk 30 minutes every day. Let children play outside for at least an hour a day.
6) Eye Care Habits: Avoid touching and rubbing your eyes with dirty hands. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from harmful UV rays. Wear protective glasses in sports, during construction and repair work. Always change your eye cosmetics every 6-8 months. Do not share them with anyone. For contact lens wearers –
1. Maintain contact lens hygiene
2. Do not sleep with lit contact lenses.
3. Do not use water and expired contact lens solutions.
7) Pre-existing illnesses: Check and monitor your blood sugar, blood pressure, and thyroid levels regularly.
8) Regular eye checks: Go for frequent checkups for pre-existing systemic illnesses. Once a year, regular eye checkups are necessary for children and adults to maintain normal eye health and detect disease in its early stages.
9) Eye check-ups in children: Early eye exams should be done in children between 3 and 4 years old to prevent vision loss due to refractive errors and lazy eyes.
Dr. Sridevi Haldar, Ophthalmologist/Eye Surgeon at Ortho Vision Clinic, Noida shared, “Diseases like diabetic retinopathy in severe forms, glaucoma, meibomitis have taken center stage. They are debilitating comorbid conditions that require prolonged treatment, thus consuming personal and family effort and energy. One should refrain from relishing such mouth-watering junk food and indulge in a healthy lifestyle. We have seen a sudden increase in cases of refractive error in children due to indoor limitations during the pandemic. This resulted in the depletion of the body’s stores of vitamin D, thus poor absorption of calcium from dietary sources leading to abnormal elongation in the size of the eyeball and thus a rapid increase in ocular power.
According to studies, 1 hour of sun exposure is a must for both children and adults. Dr Sridevi Haldar advised, “Calcium rich foods such as milk, eggs and bananas should be consumed daily for eye and bone health. There should be enough natural light in the home, and children should be encouraged to study under appropriate lighting. Digital screen time should be reduced to a maximum of 30 minutes for children under 8 and 90 minutes for children 8-16. Today, many myopia control therapies are available to prevent the rapid progression of refractive error. Consult your doctor about this.
She added: “Although sunlight is essential for mental health as it helps release dopamine, serotonin (endorphins), it is an essential source of vitamin D. It has also been shown to be essential for strength of your cornea. When a weak cornea begins to bend or stiffen, a condition known as keratoconus occurs, which begins with frequent changing of glasses, but eventually leads to sight-threatening complications due to severe thinning . We therefore suggest not rubbing your eyes as this can predispose to keratoconus. In case of dry eyes or allergies, consult your doctor and take appropriate treatment.
Stating that a healthy diet and practicing good habits are important in maintaining healthy eyes, Dr. Rajesh Prabu, Specialist Consultant in the Pediatric Ophthalmology Clinic at Sankara Eye Hospital in Coimbatore, said: “It is believed often times that medications alone are needed to maintain good eye health, but we may not know that daily food intake and daily habits play a big role in this. He revealed a list of foods that help maintain good eye health:
1. Nuts – Walnuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E which can protect the eyes from age-related damage.
2. Seeds – The seeds also contain omega-3s and are a rich source of vitamin E.
3. Citrus – Citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C. Like vitamin E, vitamin C is an antioxidant recommended for fighting age-related eye damage.
4. Leafy green vegetables – Leafy green vegetables are rich in lutein and zeaxanthin and are also a good source of eye-friendly vitamin C.
5. Carrots – Carrots are rich in vitamin A and beta-carotene, which are important for maintaining eye health.
6. Sweet Potatoes – Like carrots, sweet potatoes are high in beta-carotene. They are also a good source of antioxidant vitamin E.
7. Water – An essential liquid for life is also crucial for eye health. Drinking good amounts of water can prevent dehydration, which can reduce dry eye symptoms.
He advised a few daily habits to improve your eye health:
• Avoid excessive sun exposure; wear sunglasses if you stay outside for a long time
• Quit Smoking – Excessive smoking can impact eye health
• Get your eyes checked regularly, especially if you have a family history of eye disease
• Eye protection equipment is essential when working with potential eye irritants or hazardous chemicals
• Wash your hands regularly before applying the contacts to the eyes. Wear contact lenses only until the period certified by the doctor or manufacturer
• A cardinal principle to follow is to avoid computer exposure for prolonged periods and computer-related eye strain by looking away every 20 minutes at something 20 feet away, for 20 seconds.
It is always important to ensure early treatment of eye health problems to avoid complications. If you notice any changes in your vision, seek an eye exam immediately from an expert ophthalmologist.