National Eye Health Week: What are the key issues?

Eye testWith a booming and ageing population, promoting the importance of eye health in the UK has never been more important. National Eye Health Week 2015 has seen some key issues come to both patients and eye health professionals’ attention.

Smoking and vision loss – link confirmed

We know the dangers of smoking to lungs and other organs, but what about eyes? This week GPs and optometrists confirmed a link between smoking and vision loss, and startlingly 70% of UK adults do not know there is a link between smoking and sight.

82% of optometrists say there is a link and around 56% of GPs agree. Smoking is the biggest cause of eye problems ahead of diet, genetics and UV ray exposure. Read all the statistics behind this important study on the News Medical site.

Low autumn sun presents a risk to eye health

Boots Opticians launched a campaign during Eye Week to raise awareness of the dangers of sunlight to the eyes, particularly in the autumn and winter when the sun is low in the sky. Unprotected exposure to sun can cause sight loss, but there are ways to prevent it happening.

When the sun is high in the sky, in the summer months, our brow bone acts as a natural shade, but when the sun is lower in the sky, from 23rd September onwards, the amount of UV radiation your eyes is exposed to increases dramatically. Learn more about protecting your eyes from low autumn sun on the Vision Matters site.

Bad blue light and age-related macular degeneration

Many of us spend long hours in front of screens, whether that is a desktop computer, a tablet or a smartphone, and this is affecting our eyes. Research by the Optometric Association shows prolonged use of devices that emit blue and violet light can be harmful to eyes in the long term. In some cases the light given off by these devices can contribute to age-related macular degeneration.

Genetic risk factors vs lifestyle factors

A warning that patients’ poor lifestyles contributes to sight loss came from a new study during Eye Week. The Journal of Ophthalmology revealed that lifestyle factors increased the risk of sight loss, regardless of a person’s genetic make-up. The six-year study concluded that diet, exercise patterns and smoking could all contribute to a person’s risk of developing AMD – a leading cause of blindness.

National Eye Week proposed ‘six sight savers’ that could allow you to advise your patients on protecting their eye health:

1.      Quit smoking

2.      Eat right for good sight

3.      Watch your weight

4.      Get fit

5.      Cover up – reduce exposure to UV rays

6.      Be screen smart to avoid eye strain

Read all of the news from National Eye Health Week on the Vision Matters site, or search the hashtag #EyeWeek to see the full conversation on Twitter.

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