New year, new view on eye health – make 2024 the year to prioritise good vision for life

Despite Optometry Australia’s 2022 Vision Index finding that 75 percent of Australians value vision as their most important sense, eye health issues continue to increase at a rate of concern to optometrists.

More than 1 in 10 Australians have never seen an optometrist and only just over a quarter of us have had an eye examination within the past two years, which is the recommended frequency for taking a trip to the optometrist for a routine eye health check.

So, as we bid farewell to 2023, it's the perfect time to reflect on our current health habits and routines to identify how we can make positive changes for the future.

While wellbeing-based resolutions seem to typically focus on fitness and nutrition aspirations, we're all about making 2024 the year to prioritise good vision, for life.

Pay a visit to your local optometrist 

Start the year off on the right foot by scheduling a comprehensive eye examination with your local optometrist. Regular eye check-ups can detect potential issues early, allowing for timely intervention. 

“With many Aussies not realising that 90 per cent of blindness or vision impairment is preventable or treatable, we can sometimes take our eyesight for granted until something goes wrong. The earlier people start looking after their eyes, the better chance of them maintaining good vision,” said Sophie Koh, optometrist and National Professional Services Advisor at Optometry Australia. 

Optometry Australia recommends having a complete eye examination every two years to be sure any early signs of serious disease are identified. 

Slip on those sunnies 

Australia is well known for its brutal and relentless levels of UV (ultraviolet) radiation, especially during the summer months.  

The southern hemisphere experiences approximately seven percent higher levels of UV radiation compared to the northern hemisphere, primarily due to lower pollution levels and clearer air. This is largely attributed to the comparatively lower population densities in the southern hemisphere. 

“Failing to prioritise UV protection in your youth increases the likelihood of developing eye conditions such as cataracts and pterygiums as you age. Pterygiums, pronounced ‘te-ri-gi-um', are fleshy pinkish-white tissue at the corner of your eye that grows because you have been exposed to too much UV, possibly since childhood. 

Your friends and family may even comment that your eyes are looking ‘bloodshot’ because this tissue growth can be seen by others. This tissue growth can also cause some eye irritation, dry eyes and sometimes pain. Furthermore, the sensitive skin in and around the eyes, is especially susceptible to UV damage, potentially resulting in the development of skin cancers.” 

This year, be sure to invest in a pair of high-quality sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays and wear them consistently, especially on sunny days.

Get that green time 

Researchers from China and Australia have discovered that spending about an extra 1.25 hours per day outside reduces the risk of developing myopia (shortsightedness) by 50 percent.  

Considering that Optometry Australia’s 2022 Vision Index Report found that over half of parents surveyed said their children were spending at least four hours in front of screens every day, we can understand the implications this is having on ‘green time’. 

"When it comes to addressing childhood myopia and slowing its progression, early diagnosis and intervention is paramount for fostering long-term eye health. However, we recommend that caregivers promote abundant outdoor play and endorse regular breaks from electronic devices.”

You can’t beat what you eat 

Fuel your eyes with the nutrients they need by incorporating a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, lutein, zeaxanthin, antioxidants and vitamins A, C and E can especially contribute to better eye health. 

“Research has found that foods rich in these essential vitamins and minerals help lower risk for age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataract and perhaps even dry eye later in life. Boosting your intake of foods like salmon, spinach, strawberries, capsicum, sweet potato and nuts like almonds and hazelnuts can only serve your eyes well.”

H2O is the go 

We all know proper hydration is crucial for overall health, and your eyes are no exception. Staying well-hydrated helps maintain the fluid balance in your eyes, preventing dryness and irritation.  

“As a rule, adult males need to drink around 2.6 litres of fluids every day, while adult females need around 2 litres of fluids a day. Children's daily intake of water should sit around 1 litre while teenagers should aim for 1.75 litres per day.”

Ditch the cigs 

If you're a smoker, make 2024 the year you quit. Smoking is linked to an increased risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataracts and other eye conditions such as dry eye.  

“Smoking can increase your risk of developing AMD by up to four times and some studies indicate that those individuals who smoke tend to exhibit reduced levels of the macular pigments lutein and zeaxanthin. These pigments play a crucial role in shielding the macula from UV radiation, presenting yet another risk factor for age-related macular degeneration (AMD).”

Create eye-friendly living and working environments 

There are easy changes you can make at home and work in the new year to encourage better eye health. 

“Be sure that your home and office space is fitted out with adequate lighting. When it comes to toiling away at your desk, it’s important that your computer monitor is positioned at eye level and any glare is reduced to minimise eye strain.”

Count those sheep and get enough sleep 

Quality sleep directly impacts your eye health, with a lack of it leading to dry eyes, eye twitching and other vision problems. 

“While you sleep, your body undertakes the essential process of repairing and rejuvenating the cells in your eyes, contributing to their overall health and proper functioning. Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep each night to give your eyes the ideal amount of rest they need.” 

We’re here to help make 2024 your year of good vision for life. 

You can use our Find an Optometrist search tool to book an appointment with your nearest optometrist today. 

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