National Eye Health Week

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24th September 2018 marked the beginning of National Eye Health Week – the initiative to raise awareness about something that perhaps many of us are taking for granted or don't consider until there's a problem.

Surveys have repeatedly shown that out of the five senses, vision is the one that people tend to most fear losing, but how much do we really know about our precious eyes? Did you know that our eyes are impressively quick to heal with a corneal injury repairing itself in just 2 days? Or that a shark's cornea is so similar to a human cornea that it can be used as a replacement in human eye surgeries? Did you know that while the human fingerprint has 40 features which make it distinct to the individual, the iris has 256? They are even unique between twins and are the reason retinal scanning can be successfully used in security.

According to Fight for Sight 30% of people do not attend their check ups every two years as recommended. We're lucky to have the opportunities we do today; new technologies are always being developed, including machines that make it easier to spot diseases like glaucoma. The NHS has even reported a test of eye movement that can diagnose schizophrenia with 98% accuracy.

In today's medical sphere, the adage “prevention is better than cure” prevails in the form of health promotion. With strains on the healthcare service including staffing and a population that is growing and living longer, we are called to take responsibility for our own health. The eyes are said to be the windows to the soul, but that's not all. Aside from vision, your eyes can give away the condition of your blood pressure, blood sugar and visual related symptoms may be caused by something more serious elsewhere in the body.

Various promotional campaigns have taught us how to check our bodies for signs of cancer and we know how to check the condition of our skin, teeth, and so on, but how much do we know about healthy eyes? Here are some indicators to look out for – yellow eyes could be a sign of liver problems, dry, irritated eyes could be a sign of poor nutrition and red, watery or itchy eyes could be a sign of an allergic reaction. If you spend a lot of time looking at a computer or other form of screen, it might be worth being aware of Computer Vision Syndrome. This covers a variety of symptoms you may experience from looking at a screen for a long time, including sore eyes, headaches and even a sore neck and shoulders.

One way recommended to alleviate this is the 20-20-20 rule. This involves looking at something 20 feet away, for 20 seconds every 20 minutes. Some other things you can do to take care of your eyes include eating well, maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding smoking as this has been linked to increased risk of macular degeneration, cataracts and optic nerve damage. Be sure to wear your sunglasses on a bright day and avoid touching your eyes with unwashed hands too!

Spread the word this National Eye Health week – vision matters!

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