Age related macular degeneration (ARMD) accounts for 50% of all blindness in the UK.
It affects 600,000 people a year, with 200 a day being diagnosed.
ARMD comes in two forms: wet and dry.
The wet form is much more dangerous, causing a speedy deterioration in vision.
‘Unfortunately, there’s no cure for ARMD,’ explains optician Omar Hassan, head of professional services at Vision Express.
‘But there are injections that can halt its progress for some patients – it’s important to catch it early, as it can lead to significant blindness if left untreated.’
The average Brit only has an eye test every five years (rather than the recommended two), but as we age it’s more important than ever to have regular check-ups.
‘With many conditions, 40% of vision could be lost without the patient noticing anything is wrong at all,’ says Omar.
‘I see many patients with sight problems that could have been prevented if it had been diagnosed earlier.’
CUT DOWN ON SCREEN TIME
We’re living in the age of the screen.
Whether it’s TVs, phones or computers, most of us spend a good portion of our day looking at them.
Televisions are the most commonly looked at, with 72% of Brits watching TV each day.
Most people naturally blink around 20 times a minute, keeping our eyes fresh and hydrated.
But worrying new research suggests we only blink one to three times a minute when focused on a screen, which can lead to blurred vision, dry eyes and headaches from eye strain.
‘Our eyes are essential, and we should treat them well to minimise any long-term damage,’ says eyecare expert and oculoplastic surgeon, Dr Sabrina Shah-Desai.
‘It’s vital we take regular breaks from artificial light and digital devices.’
‘Longer periods between blinking cause dry eyes, redness, a feeling of “grittiness” and blurred vision.’
Dr Sabrina recommends following the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes look away from the telly or computer and look at something at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
You can also use preservative-free eye drop such as Hycosan Fresh (£8.99 from Boots) to rehydrate the eyes.
FOODS TO BOOST YOUR VISION
Blueberries contain a group of compounds called anthocyanosides, which help the retina adjust to the dark, and have also been shown to reduce the risk of cataracts and glaucoma.
Try adding a handful of the berries to your diet each day.
Salmon is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which help care for the tiny blood vessels in your eyes.
Vegetarians can turn to chia seeds instead for their fix of omegas – try stirring a spoonful into your porridge.
Leafy greens are packed full of lutein, a nutrient essential for protecting eyes from harmful blue light wavelengths.
A recent study showed people whose eyes contain high levels of lutein were 80% less likely to suffer with ARMD.
Get chomping on broccoli, kale and spinach, and add a small amount of fat (like butter or olive oil) to help raise absorption levels.
Soothe your eyes
Your eyes contain around 70 oil glands that can get blocked, causing sore, dry eyes.
Soothe sore eyes by placing a flannel soaked in warm water over them and lying down for 10 minutes.
Or buy an Optase Moist Heat Mask (£8.90 from Amazon) – pop it in the microwave for 25 seconds and use in place of a flannel.
Are carrots really the answer?
This old wives’ tale is partly true.
The idea that carrots can improve night vision actually stems from a rumour started during World War II.
To prevent German troops realising we were using radar to identify night-raid bombers, a statement was released claiming soldiers had been eating carrots to improve their night vision – fooling us Brits along with the Germans!
Carrots do, however, contain high levels of vitamin A, which is essential to eye health.
A severe vitamin deficiency can lead to night blindness, so in extreme cases, carrots really can help you see in the dark.
‘One of the best things you can do for your eyes is to eat a balanced diet high in fruit and vegetables, but also low in saturated fats and sugar,’ says optometry specialist Dr Leland Carr.
‘You should take in adequate amounts of the minerals zinc and selenium, both of which help protect the retina – the light-sensitive part at the back of the eye.’
‘You also need some fatty acids – usually from fish – to ensure adequate moisture in your eyes.’