eyes wide open...

Keeping the eyes healthy involves keeping the body healthy as a whole. This is because eye health is inextricably linked with the body’s biochemistry and physiology.

To keep your eyes in good shape you should eat a healthy, balanced and varied diet (high in fresh produce, and low in salt, sugar and bad fats); exercise regularly; don’t smoke; avoid excessive use of alcohol, caffeine and painkillers; and protect your eyes from sunlight by wearing a hat and sunglasses.

In addition consider supplementing with a good high quality multivitamin and omega-3 fatty acids.

Cataracts
Cataracts involve the clouding of the lens of the eye, which is normally clear. This results in cloudy vision akin to looking through a fogged-up window Cataracts usually develop slowly and may take a while to interfere with your vision. Once this occurs though you may find yourself struggling with everyday activities, which may necessitate surgery to replace the faulty lens with an artificial one. Fortunately cataract surgery is generally considered a fairly safe procedure with good results.

Glaucoma
Glaucoma is characterised by damage to the optic nerve, which carries messages from the eyes to the brain resulting in the vision that you see. Glaucoma is usually, but not always, caused by abnormally high pressure in the eye. If the condition is left untreated progressive vision loss ensues, going from blind spots to tunnel vision and finally resulting in total blindness, as the function of the optic nerve is increasingly impaired.

Macular Degeneration
Macular degeneration (MD) is associated with loss of vision in the centre of your visual field, caused by deterioration of the macular, which is situated at the back of the eye and is responsible for sharp central vision. Most commonly the macular degenerates for unknown reasons as the eyes age, but sometimes macular degeneration can be caused by abnormal growth of blood vessels and fluid leakage at the back of the eye.

Although treatment can’t reverse either form of MD it may help slow down vision loss. Supplements with specific nutrients such as a combination vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, zinc and copper. 

Also lutein and zeaxanthin (also beneficial in people who have undergone cataract surgery and may be a safer alternative to beta-carotene which has been linked to cancer in smokers), as well as vitamin D and calcium.

Some people may also benefit from a telescopic lens implant, while others may require medication or other treatments to stop the growth of abnormal blood vessels.

As ever though prevention is better than cure. While medical advances allow doctors to manage these and other eye diseases with a fair degree of success, stopping them from developing in the first place, as far as possible, is the preferable option. 

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