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Eye Health

The West Midlands Local Eye Health Network has developed a video, with the support of Eye Health UK, to help people look after their eyes. Key messages include the importance of having regular eye tests, eating healthy foods and protecting your eyes from ultra-violet light:

Age-related – macular degeneration (AMD) is the most common cause of blindness in the UK. There are two forms, one is the wet form where there are some treatment options if caught quickly. However for the dry form there is no treatment, which is why there is a lot of focus on prevention.

Many studies have shown that some specific vitamins and carotenoids may help reduce AMD from developing. Vitamins A, C and E are powerful antioxidants and help protect against damage to the back of your eyes. Carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin may also lower the risk of AMD developing.

What should I eat for healthy eyes?

Lutein and zeaxanthin are found primarily in broccoli, corn, squash and dark green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale and should be consumed as part of a balanced healthy diet. See the Eatwell Guide to learn more about eating a healthy balanced diet.

When cooking, vegetables should be lightly boiled, steamed or microwaved. Light cooking increases the bioavailability of lutein (that is, how easily the body can extract lutein), whereas too much cooking destroys it. Kale is the best source of lutein and has good bioavailability even if it is raw.

Eggs have a high level of lutein and zeaxanthin

Lutein and zeaxanthin in eggs may be more easily absorbed by the body because they are eaten with the fat contained in the egg. They also contain sulphur which may protect the lens of the eye from cataracts. Zeaxanthin is also found in yellow and orange coloured fruits and vegetables such as sweetcorn and orange bell peppers. Most of these foods also contain Vitamin C and E.

Other foods you should incorporate into your diet for healthy eyes include:

  • Fresh or frozen fish like salmon, sardines, tuna which are excellent sources of omega 3 fatty acids, help with dry eyes and maintenance of general eye health.
  • Blueberries, grapes, aubergines, red onions and berries contain anthocyanins which may help improve night vision.
  • Whole grains and avocados are rich in zinc and vitamin B. Deficiency in complex B vitamins may increase your risk of cataracts and retinopathy.
  • Garlic, onions, shallots and capers are rich in sulphur, which is necessary for the production of glutathione – required to help maintain healthy sight.
  • Papaya, carrots, spinach, kale, sweet potato, melon and mangoes are all a good sources of beta-carotene which can help to prevent ‘free radical’ damage inside the eye. Free radical damage is linked to degenerative eye disease.
  • Soy contains essential fatty acids, vitamin E and inflammatory agents.

Common eye conditions

Cataracts: It is very common to get cataracts as you get older. Cataracts develop because the lens of your eye changes in response to the natural ageing process. This means that your once clear lens becomes cloudy.

Some studies have shown that a healthy diet rich in antioxidant containing foods may decrease the risk of developing cataracts. A diet rich in antioxidant containing foods such as fruits and vegetables may also prevent or slow down cataracts, as well as being beneficial to our general health.

Dry eye makes your eyes feel uncomfortable and sore. It fmay feel as if there is grit in your eyes. This is because the tears that keep your eyes comfortable and moist are not working effectively.

Studies have shown that omega 3 (a type of fat we get from our diets) can have positive effects on the symptoms of dry eye when taken in certain quantities.

Omega 3 can be found in:

  • Oily fish such as anchovies, Herring, Salmon, Sardines, Fresh tuna, Mackerel, Trout
  • Flaxseed/linseed
  • Walnuts
  • Eggs enriched with added omega 3

If you want to take omega 3 supplements for dry eye it is important to discuss this with your GP or Ophthalmologist (eye specialist) first.

General advice

Having a well balanced diet is important not only for your general health but for your eye health. Take your first step today and sign up for a healthy eating course! With our support eating a well balanced healthy diet will become a daily routine.

Compiled by Dudley Local Optometric Committee www.dudleyloc.co.uk