Eye Care: Maintaining Good Eye Health and Preventing Vision Problems
In the UK, it is estimated that over 2 million people are living with sight loss, and this number is expected to rise in the coming years.
As many as 50% of cases of sight loss could have been prevented with proper eye care and early detection.
In this guide, we'll recommend practical, natural steps that you can take today to maintain good eye health, prevent vision problems, and improve existing eye conditions. We've listed them in order of importance for potential significant improvements.
12 natural ways to improve your eye health
The Importance of Regular Eye Exams
Regular eye exams are crucial for maintaining good eye health and detecting any potential vision problems early. The NHS recommends that adults have an eye test at least once every two years, or more frequently if advised by an optometrist.
Regular eye exams can help identify common eye conditions, such as glaucoma, cataracts, and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which can be more effectively treated if caught early.
Eye exams are available on the high street from opticians and also from Specsavers, Vision Express, and Boots Opticians. They typically cost around £20-£25, and if you're over 60, they're usually free of charge.
Nutrition for Eye Health
A healthy, balanced diet is essential for maintaining good eye health. Consuming foods rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals can help protect your eyes from damage and reduce the risk of developing eye conditions. Here are some essential nutrients for eye health, their food sources, and their benefits:
Lutein and zeaxanthin: These carotenoids are found in leafy greens, such as kale and spinach, and in egg yolks. There are also specific Lutein and zeaxanthin supplements. They help protect the eyes from harmful blue light and oxidative damage, reducing the risk of AMD and cataracts.
Omega-3 fatty acids: Found in oily fish, such as salmon and mackerel, as well as flaxseeds and walnuts. Omega-3s are essential for proper retinal function and may help prevent dry eye syndrome.
Vitamin C: Found in citrus fruits, strawberries, and bell peppers. This antioxidant helps protect the eyes against oxidative damage and may reduce the risk of cataracts and AMD.
Vitamin E: Found in almonds, sunflower seeds, and avocados. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps protect the eyes from oxidative stress, which can contribute to the development of cataracts and AMD.
Zinc: Found in lean meats, shellfish, and legumes. Zinc is an essential trace mineral that helps maintain the health of the retina and may help protect against AMD and night blindness.
Water: Drinking plenty of water can help maintain good eye health by keeping your eyes well-lubricated and preventing dryness. Aim for at least 8 cups (about 2 litres) of water per day.
Protect Your Eyes from the Sun
Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun can cause damage to the eyes and increase the risk of cataracts and AMD. Wearing sunglasses with 100% UV protection, as well as a wide-brimmed hat, can help shield your eyes from harmful UV rays. Long-term exposure to UV radiation can increase the risk of cataracts by up to 20%.
Managing Chronic Conditions
Managing diabetes and high blood pressure can help prevent eye complications. Uncontrolled diabetes, for example, can lead to diabetic retinopathy, which is a leading cause of blindness in adults. Maintaining good control of blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and cholesterol can reduce the risk of eye-related complications.
Regular physical activity has been linked to a reduced risk of developing eye conditions, such as glaucoma and AMD.
One study found that individuals who engaged in moderate to vigorous physical activity had a 25% lower risk of developing glaucoma compared to those who were sedentary.
Additionally, exercise can help improve blood circulation, which is essential for delivering oxygen and nutrients to the eyes. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week.
Even light activities, such as walking, can contribute to overall eye health.
The Eyes and Oxygen Consumption
The eyes are highly metabolic organs that consume a large amount of oxygen compared to their size. They use up to 5 times more oxygen per gram of tissue than other major organs like the brain, heart, and kidneys.
This high oxygen consumption is necessary to maintain the constant function of the retina and other eye tissues.
That's why when your eyes are tired it can make you feel really tired, your eyes are literally using up all your energy.
Keep Your Eyes Clean
Maintaining good hygiene is essential for preventing eye infections and keeping your eyes healthy. Always wash your hands before touching your eyes or handling contact lenses. Avoid rubbing your eyes, as this can introduce bacteria and irritants that can cause infections.
If you wear makeup, make sure to remove it thoroughly before going to bed to prevent the build-up of bacteria and debris that can lead to eye infections. Regularly clean your glasses or contact lens cases to reduce the risk of contamination and infection.
Additionally, replace your makeup, especially eye makeup, regularly to minimise the risk of infections.
Manage Screen Time
Extended periods of screen time can cause digital eye strain, leading to symptoms like dryness, blurred vision, and headaches.
To reduce the risk of digital eye strain, follow the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break to look at something 20 feet away. This helps relax the eye muscles and reduce strain.
Adjusting the screen brightness, text size, and maintaining a proper distance from the screen can also help reduce eye strain.
Use Proper Lighting
Ensure that your reading and work environments have adequate lighting to reduce eye strain. Poor lighting can cause eye fatigue and increase the risk of developing nearsightedness.
Opt for natural light whenever possible and use task-specific lighting, such as desk lamps, for focused work to reduce eye strain.
Wear Protective Eyewear
Wearing protective eyewear is a simple and often overlooked way to protect your eyes from injury.
Common activities that we take for granted, such as gardening, woodworking, playing racquet sports, or using power tools, can pose real hazards for the eyes. A branch swinging the wrong way, a stone flicked up from cutting the grass, or debris flying from a power tool can all cause eye injuries.
Blinking helps to keep your eyes moist and reduces dryness and irritation. When using screens or focusing on close-up tasks, make a conscious effort to blink more often to maintain eye comfort.
Additionally, if you experience persistent dryness, using over-the-counter lubricating eye drops or artificial tears can provide relief and maintain eye health. However, if dry eyes become a chronic issue do speak to your GP as soon as possible.
In addition to the 20-20-20 rule, there are a few other simple eye exercises that can help maintain eye health and reduce strain:
Palming: This exercise helps relax the eye muscles and reduce strain. Rub your palms together to generate heat, then gently cup them over your closed eyes without applying pressure. Hold this position for a few seconds and repeat as needed.
Eye rolling: Roll your eyes in a circular motion clockwise, then counterclockwise, for a few seconds each. This exercise can help strengthen eye muscles and improve flexibility.
Focusing exercises: Hold an object, such as a pen, at arm's length and focus on it. Slowly move the object closer to your eyes until it is about 15 centimetres away, keeping your focus on the object. Then, slowly move the object back to arm's length. Repeat this exercise several times.
Peripheral vision exercises: Place an object at the centre of your vision and focus on it. Without moving your eyes, try to become aware of objects in your peripheral vision. This exercise can help improve peripheral awareness and reduce eye strain.
This article is for general information only and in not intended to treat or diagnose medical conditions.
 Age-Related Eye Disease Study Research Group. (2001). A randomized, placebo-controlled, clinical trial of high-dose supplementation with vitamins C and E, beta carotene, and zinc for age-related macular degeneration and vision loss: AREDS report no. 8. Archives of Ophthalmology, 119(10), 1417-1436.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11594942/
 Yu, D.Y., & Cringle, S.J. (2001). Oxygen distribution and consumption within the retina in vascularised and avascular retinas and in animal models of retinal disease. Progress in Retinal and Eye Research, 20(2), 175-208.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11173253/
 Lin, S.C., Wang, S.Y., & Yen, M.Y. (2019). The Association between Physical Activity and Open-angle Glaucoma: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Journal of Glaucoma, 28(1), 18-29.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30234730/