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Take 5 on great eyesight

Things you need to know about protecting vision and cutting down on disease risk when you turn older. A report by Sanchita Sharma.
By Sanchita Sharma | Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON JUL 12, 2008 10:52 PM IST

Everyone wants to have perfect vision, but those born with it experience some loss of vision as they age. While there is no escaping some degeneration over time, a few simple steps can help you optimise your natural vision and ensure that the potentially blinding diseases such as cataract (gradual clouding of the lens of the eye) and glaucoma (elevation of pressure inside the eye) are identified and treated in time.

Here’s what you can do to protect your eyes:

Go for a regular eye check-up

Even if you have perfect vision, go for an eye check-up at least once in two years to help identify possible small changes in vision. If you are over 45 , have a family history of glaucoma, diabetes or hypertension, get a dilated eye exam done annually. Most blindness can be prevented if the diseases are diagnosed and treated at an early stage.

“Eye examination should begin at birth for congenital defects. Since premature babies and those put on oxygen therapy or incubator are at higher risk of retinal problems, parents should ensure their babies’ eyes are examined. The next examination should be before children join school at 3 years, then when they become teenagers and then at college,” says Dr JS Titiyal, professor and head of RP Centre for Ophthalmic Sciences, All India Institute of Medical Sciences.

Don’t ignore vision changes

Complaints of blurred vision, light flashes, eye pain, redness, itching, swelling and irritation around the eye or eyelid could be signs of glaucoma, cataract and diabetic retinopathy. “While there is no cure for some eye conditions, their progression can be slowed down with treatment. Major medical advances for common eye diseases such as macular degeneration, glaucoma and cataracts, however, can help save a person’s vision,” says Dr Mahipal Sachdev, director, Centre for Sight.

Control diabetes, hypertension

Blood pressure should be equal to or under 120/80, mean arterial pressure (MAP) should be less than 93 and the retinal perfusion pressure (RPP) less than 45. The average blood glucose should be under 100 as far as possible. If the blood sugar levels are kept to normal, there is lesser risk of diabetic retinopathy.

Wear sunglasses or carry umbrellas for UV protection

Prolonged exposure to the sun without adequate protection can permanently damage vision and increases the risk of cataract and macular degeneration. To best protect your eyes, carry a parasol, wear a cap that shades your eyefs or buy sunglasses that provide at least 98 per cent protection from both UVA and UVB rays.

Have enough vitamins

Vitamin A, C, and E are the primary vitamins that boost vision. Vitamin A (found in papaya, tomato, mango, carrots, strawberries, broccoli, and cauliflower) prevents night blindness, while Vitamins C (citrus fruits) and E (almonds, seeds, peanuts and eggs) offer some protection against glaucoma and cataracts. Since tobacco lowers vitamin A absorption and alcohol depletes it from the body, people who smoke and drink need to have more of it. Additional minerals that help are selenium (shellfish, fish, cereals) that aids Vitamin E absorption, and zinc (seeds, chickpeas, lentils and cheddar cheese) which helps the body absorb Vitamin A.

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