MIND & BODY
Everyday behaviour can dramatically damage your sight, discovers Maria Lally – but knowledge is power. These are the ways to keep your eyes in tip-top condition
How to keep your eyes in tip-top condition
HANDS UP IF, in the last week, you’ve slept in your eye make-up, stared at your iPhone on a long commute, or headed out into the sunshine without sunglasses.
I’ve done all three. And that’s despite the fact it was National Eye Health Week recently, which, let’s face it, passes by without many of us noticing. But your eyes can be up to 10 years older than your real age.
Protecting eye health isn’t on our radar, says Stephen Hannan, clinical services director at Optical Express. ‘It’s easy to neglect your eyes as they may not necessarily hurt when underlying problems begin, showing little or no symptoms. So book in for an eye test every two years.’
One significant ager is smartphones. New research has found millions of us speed up the eye-ageing process by spending excessive time staring at screens, including iPhones, tablets and computers. In fact, one in four Brits do so for more than 10 hours a day.
‘The blue light emitted from them can potentially be harmful to our eyes,’ says Hannan. ‘Long periods of exposure to it, also known as high-energy visibility light, reduces the UVA- and UVB-fighting carotenoids in skin and eyes, leaving them vulnerable to the sun’s rays. So break the phone-checking habit.’
Eye infections also speed up ageing, with contact-lens wearers particularly susceptible. Scientists at University College London and Moorfields Eye Hospital have found a threefold increase in cases of acanthamoeba keratitis, a waterborne infection. Not washing hands before putting in lenses or showering in them are the biggest causes.
Similarly, swimming, old mascara and sleeping in your make-up can increase your risk of a bacterial infection. One study from Ontario’s University of Waterloo linked infection to eyeliner on lower lids, so researchers suggest sharpening your pencil before each use.
Lastly, don’t smoke (duh). Hannan says it increases the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of blindness in the over-50s. So there you have it: time to start safeguarding your sight.