Car­rot diet and the real blame game

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Laser Eye Surgery - By LAURA CENCIGH

EAT your carrots, move back from the TV un­less you want square eyes - and don’t you dare look into the mi­crowave. No mat­ter how re­li­giously our par­ents re­peated th­ese words of ad­vice, they’re prob­a­bly still the ones to blame for our eye prob­lems. Ge­net­i­cally speak­ing, that is. Ev­i­dence sug­gests that the most com­mon vi­sion prob­lems among chil­dren and adults are ge­net­i­cally de­ter­mined.

Th­ese in­clude the widely suf­fered re­frac­tion er­rors of near- sight­ed­ness ( my­opia), far- sight­ed­ness ( hy­per­opia) and astig­ma­tism.

This is not, how­ever, an ex­cuse to close our eyes to all op­ti­cal care ad­vice.

Shirley Loh, pro­fes­sional ser­vices man­ager for the Op­tometrists As­so­ci­a­tion Aus­tralia, says that de­spite the force of ge­netic fac­tors, our nur­ture also plays a sig­nif­i­cant role in eye health.

Wear­ing Aus­tralian stan­dard ap­proved sun­glasses to pre­vent UV dam­age which can lead to cataracts is one piece of ad­vice we should all bear in mind.

Quit­ting smok­ing is an­other. Mac­u­lar de­gen­er­a­tion, which can lead to se­vere de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of vi­sion, is one of the many health prob­lems which has been linked to smok­ing.

Young peo­ple who smoke don’t think about the con­se­quences, but sev­eral years down the track they can emerge,’’ Ms Loh says.

As many eye con­di­tions can be pre­vented from wors­en­ing, but not re­versed, op­tometrists en­cour­age reg­u­lar check- ups.

Just like get­ting reg­u­lar checks for your teeth, get­ting reg­u­lar eye checks is very im­por­tant,’’ Ms Loh says. You should go once ev­ery two years if you don’t have any prob­lems.’’ Some con­di­tions, such as glau­coma, aren’t al­ways no­tice­able to the suf­ferer from their on­set, Ms Loh says: ‘‘ It af­fects your side, pe­riph­eral vi­sion. It comes creep­ing in and ends up like tun­nel vi­sion.

‘‘ Be­cause it’s on the sides you can still do things like read­ing, you can see peo­ple’s faces, and even drive, but you might not see cars or pedes­tri­ans ap­proach­ing on the side of you.’’

Check- ups are equally im­por­tant for chil­dren, and par­ents should be aware of signs that their child is hav­ing prob­lems with their vi­sion.

‘‘ Things like, do they move their heads or squint their eyes when they read,’’ Ms Loh ex­plains. ‘‘ Th­ese are be­havioural things that chil­dren them­selves might not un­der­stand, so you need to look for the signs.

‘‘ Take them for a check- up ev­ery two years, par­tic­u­larly when they are go­ing through pu­berty, as this is when short- sight­ed­ness of­ten comes out.’’

So are par­ents cor­rect in fright­en­ing their chil­dren out of sit­ting too close to the television or read­ing by torch light?

‘‘ Sit­ting close to the television is not rec­om­mended as it can cause eye strain,’’ Loh says. ‘‘ Any kind of eye strain has the pos­si­bil­ity of re­sult­ing in long- term ef­fects.

‘‘ When­ever eye strain can be re­duced, it might as well be.’’

While there isn’t any strong ev­i­dence to sug­gest star­ing at a com­puter screen all day dam­ages the eyes, reg­u­lar breaks are rec­om­mended.

‘‘ Even young peo­ple who do not need glasses may wear them at the com­puter if they are get­ting tired eyes,’’ Loh says.

‘‘ They may find that anti- glare screens help, and if a per­son wears glasses at the com­puter they should get anti- glare and anti- re­flec­tive lenses.’’

Loh warns peo­ple to be wary of any eye ex­er­cises not rec­om­mended by eye care pro­fes­sion­als, such as those found in books and mag­a­zines.

‘‘ This story has been twisted in all sorts of ways,’’ she says. ‘‘ Peo­ple of non- sci­en­tific back­grounds are sell­ing th­ese with­out know­ing the sci­en­tific ba­sis of how you get eye prob­lems.

‘‘ There are cer­tain con­di­tions which can be helped by eye ex­er­cises such as binoc­u­lar prob­lems, where the eyes don’t work well to­gether and you can train the eyes to work as more of a team.

‘‘ Some peo­ple have claimed that it has helped them with pres­by­opia ( the di­min­ished abil­ity to fo­cus which oc­curs with age). But th­ese ex­er­cises can cause eye strain and not re­sult in any per­ma­nent changes.’’

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