The eyes are the light of the body. They are irreplaceable when they go bad and can only be prevented from going bad if they are properly taken care of. For those who do not have inherited bad sight conditions, they might have inflicted the pain of poor sight on themselves through poor eye care.

Binocular, 20-20 vision is regarded as the standard visual acuity which translates to clear detailed vision. But this is rarely the case in both young and old, hence the need for painstaking care of the eyes.

It is important to discard some of the myths usually associated with weak eyesight. For instance, foods like groundnut (including groundnut oil) and gari are widely acclaimed to contain substances which damage the eyes. For gari, studies have shown that, when poorly prepared, it contains cyanide (hydrocyanic acid) which, according to researchers, has the capacity to damage optic nerves. This could result in poor vision or even blindness since optic nerves are responsible for sending light sensations from the eyes to the brain.

Apart from ingesting chemical substances like cyanide, environmental factors could also be responsible for poor eyesight. Such factors possessing damaging potentials include long exposure to intense light like the computer screen – which causes eyestrain, blurry vision, trouble focusing at a distance and dry eyes – and reading under dim light, or excessive light like direct sunlight.

Although decline in visual acuity may be inevitable especially in old age, we can slow down the rate through our lifestyle. In most old people, blindness is often caused by type II diabetes which could be managed by avoiding foods that do not cause weight gain as a healthy weight cuts the risk of this type of diabetes. Like any other part of the body, the eyes ought to be properly nourished as long as they are being put to work.

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Talking about nourishment, omega-3 fatty acid, lutein, zinc and vitamins C and E have been found to reduce conditions associated with aging such as cataract and deterioration of the macula – the part of the retina that mediates clear detailed vision. Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, collards, oily fish such as tuna and salmon, non-meaty proteins like eggs, nuts and beans and citrus fruits like oranges, are all food that will give you good eye health.

On the other hand, smoking and exposure to the ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun could cause cataract, macular deterioration and optic nerve damage. It is therefore advisable to quit smoking and to wear sunshade when exposure to sun’s rays is inevitable. Sunglasses should be chosen that block 99% to 100% of both UVA and UVB rays. Wraparound lenses help protect your eyes from the side. Polarised lenses reduce glare when driving.

Protective goggles are recommended for use in places where hazardous airborne materials are present as well as in certain sports where they might be necessary. Glasses or prescription contact lenses should be up-to-date and adequate for computer use. In order to avoid glare on your computer screen, you must be positioned so that eyes are level with the top of the monitor. Some people may need glasses to help with contrast, glare, and eye strain when using a computer. Better still, you may get an anti-glare screen.

Eye exams can also find some eye diseases, such as glaucoma, that have no symptoms. It’s important to find these diseases early on, when they’re easier to treat. Here are a few steps to a comprehensive eye exam which might be needed before starting any corrective treatment:

  • Talking about your personal and family medical history
  • Taking vision tests to see if you have nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism (a curved cornea that blurs vision) or presbyopia (age-related vision changes)
  • Tests to see how well your eyes work together
  • Eye pressure and optic nerve tests to check if you have glaucoma
  • External and microscopic examination of your eyes before and after dilation.
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Depending on your eye health needs, you can see either an optometrist or an ophthalmologist for an eye exam. Ophthalmologists are medical doctors who specialise in eye care. They can provide general eye care, treat eye diseases, and perform eye surgery. Optometrists do not conduct eye surgery.


Photo credit: © Tim Pannell/Corbis