Understanding Your Eye Health

When our eyes are healthy, we can see our surroundings clearly at a range of distances.

Whether you are reading a book, driving or waving to a friend, your eyes are working hard to process light through the cornea, pupil and lens, before it is then focused to the back of the eye (the retina). The retina then sends these light signals to the brain along the optic nerve, which makes sense of it all and translates the signals into the images we see and remember.

When issues arise, it can be difficult to notice any difference in our sight at first, because the changes are gradual – and often, not painful at all.

Some early signs and symptoms of deteriorating eye health include:

  • Squinting
  • Headaches
  • Eye fatigue (or tiredness)
  • Blurred Vision

We use our eyes in every waking moment, yet in our busy lives, it becomes easy to neglect our eye health. That’s why regular eye tests are important, even if you aren’t noticing any changes or symptoms. An eye test can help to indicate if you need glasses, or a new prescription – but it’s also an important look-in to our eye health, and overall physical health.

understanding your vision

Your Eye Health Changes with Age

This is because with age, the structure and function of our eyes can change, resulting in light being distorted and no longer refracted on the retina. Additionally, the lens can start to become cloudy, preventing light from reaching the retina.

When this happens, you might notice images appearing cloudy or more blurry than before, whether you’re reading a magazine (short distance), or checking road signs when driving (long distance).

Changes may be so gradual over time that you don’t notice at first, but seeing your eye doctor is the best way to spot eye conditions early and avoid other health issues further down the line.

Common Eye Conditions

There are a series of common eye conditions that can impact the clarity of your vision, some of which are age-related. Some of the most common conditions are explored below:

Far-sightedness / Near-sightedness affects people of all ages and is due to the shape of the eye.

Far-sightedness occurs when the eyeball is slightly too short so that the light focuses behind the retina; as result objects close to you might appear blurry (hyperopia). On the contrary, near-sightedness occurs when the eyeball is slightly too long and it can be hard to see objects further away (myopia).

If you have far-sightedness or near-sightedness, you will need corrective lenses such as glasses or contact lenses to allow you to see clearly at the distances affected by this condition.

Presbyopia is an age-related condition that usually begins around the age of 40.

With presbyopia, there is a gradual loss of flexibility in the eye’s natural lens and surrounding muscles. This means the lens no longer converges light correctly on the retina.

The effect is blurred vision, making it difficult to read or see near objects without corrective lenses such as glasses. For example, it can be hard to read the instructions on medicine bottles or to read the labels on food packaging on the supermarket shelf.

Astigmatism is very common; most people have some degree of astigmatism.

Astigmatism happens when the shape of the cornea is slightly more flat in one dimension - so, less like a perfect dome, more like a rugby ball.

With astigmatism, images seem blurry, particularly at certain distances (so at either near, intermediate or far distances). If you have astigmatism, you will need corrective lenses, the same as with long or short-sightedness.

A Cataract is a very common age-related condition; it’s more likely you will have a cataract than not if you are over the age of 60. As the eye ages, the lens gradually becomes cloudier. The light that makes it to the retina can be diffused or scattered, leaving vision defocused and blurry. This usually will affect both eyes, whilst they might not develop at the same time, or feel the same in each eye.

Looking after your Eye Health

You can also look out for your eyes by staying healthy in other ways. If you’re looking to maintain your eye health in your day to day life, consider these tips;

Drink Responsibly

Keeping to the recommended weekly limits of 14 units of alcohol spread throughout the week can help prevent early age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a condition that affects the central part of your eye, causing partial blindness. 

Quit Smoking

Smokers are more at risk of eye disease and other conditions affecting your eyes, such as cataracts, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration.

Avoid Heavy Exposure to Sunlight

Whilst we associate the sun with summer and having fun outdoors, harmful UV rays from sunlight can be damaging for our eyes and even cause cataracts. Investing in a wide-brimmed hat, dark sunglasses or even a sun umbrella is a great (and often inexpensive) way to avoid too much sunlight exposure.

Be Active

Exercising regularly can improve your blood pressure, which when working as it should, supplies blood to the optic nerve and the retina. A healthy diet and keeping active lowers your chance of developing high blood pressure or high cholesterol, which can cause eye disease later down the line. Better yet, keeping our health in check can take as little as half an hour per day. 30 minutes of cardio exercise, such as cycling, swimming or even walking at a brisk pace, can do wonders for your eyes and overall health.

If you want to see more clearly, have questions about your eye health or have not booked an eye-care appointment for more than 2 years, use our Clinic Finder tool to find an eye-care specialist near you.