Carrot diet and the real blame game
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.’’