Eye health: I can see clearly now…

You should not accept poor vision as an inevitable consequence of ageing. There are ways to keep your eyes healthy as you age.

We have five senses: the eyes to see, the tongue to taste, the nose to smell, the ears to hear, and the skin to touch.

In general, eyesight is one of the most important senses, as 80% of what we perceive comes through our sense of sight.

The eyes have to take over the work if another sense is missing. For example, if other senses such as taste or smell stop working, it is the eyes that protect us from danger.
No camera is a match for the tasks that our eyes are capable of performing on a daily basis: distinguishing between light and dark, and interpreting shape, colours and objects by processing the light they reflect or emit.

Eyesight is something so natural that we take it for granted.

However, many people suffer from deficient visual acuity.

As we grow older, our vision is not as sharp; prolonged exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays and harmful blue light may cause excessive free radical damage to our eyes, which may lead to age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts.

Did you know that cataracts and AMD are the leading causes of visual impairment and acquired blindness both globally and within Malaysia?

And approximately 82% of all blind people worldwide are aged 50 years and above.

While ageing affects the health of our eyes, poor eye health should not be accepted as a part of life.

Some people avoid eye tests because they think that there is nothing that can be done to help their poor vision.

Actually, there are ways to protect your eyesight and keep your eyes healthy as you age.

A number of nutritional supplements are available for eye health.

Two of the most common eye health supplements include lutein and zeaxanthin.

Numerous studies have shown that these carotenoid antioxidants can reduce the risk of cataracts and AMD.

and zeaxanthin selectively accumulate in the macula, the centre of the retina where light-induced damage and free radical damage may occur.

Unfortunately, as we age, the concentration of lutein and zeaxanthin in the eyes decline.

This will affect vision (blurry images, difficulty reading, poor night-time vision, eye fatigue due to overstraining), and increase cataracts and AMD risk.

These two carotenoids shield the eyes from damaging UV light and act as antioxidants to protect the lenses, retina and macula against free radical damage.

Like many other important nutrients, lutein and zeaxanthin are not manufactured in the body. The only way to obtain it is in our food or by supplementing with lutein and zeaxanthin.

Food sources of lutein and zeaxanthin include spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, mangoes and egg yolk. Consuming adequate amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin through food can be particularly difficult.

The other option is to take concentrated supplemental lutein and zeaxanthin from standardised marigold flower extract.

Ensure the supplement contains at least 6mg (preferably 10mg) of standardised lutein. Studies have found that zeaxanthin is beneficial only when their amounts are much higher, e.g. at least 5mg daily.

Results from a study conducted by the Third National Examination Survey (NHANES III) have suggested a minimum of 6-10mg per day of lutein and zeaxanthin to reduce the risk of AMD.

Similar results were found in two studies published in Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science. They showed that eyes with greater levels of macular pigments were less likely to have or develop AMD.

In addition, recent studies published in Archives of Ophthalmology have found that diets rich in lutein and zeaxanthin are moderately associated with decreased prevalence of nuclear cataractss in older women.

Manage conditions such as diabetes and hypertension, as these can greatly impact vision if left untreated, resulting in diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and even blindness.

Being overweight or obese increases your risk of developing diabetes and other metabolic disease that can lead to vision loss, such as diabetic retinopathy or glaucoma.

There is a statistically significant association between smoking and AMD, with a two- to three-fold increased risk of AMD in current smokers, compared to never-smokers.

Protect your eyes from harmful UV light. You should always wear sunglasses with proper UV protection to shield your eyes from the sun harmful rays.

Get your eyes checked regularly by an optometrist. The earlier eye conditions are detected, the greater the chance of successful treatment and retaining your vision.