Looking healthy

From laser surgery to whether carrots really help you see in the dark, Specsavers Clinical Spokesperson Dr Nigel Best gives his top tips on how to keep your eyes at their best
How often should you have your eyes tested?
Normally, every two years. But for some groups thought to be at risk of certain eye diseases, a more frequent test will be recommended.

How can I avoid eye strain when using a computer?
Firstly, make sure that you are wearing the appropriate spectacles or contact-lens prescription, if one has been advised. Secondly, try not to sit too close to the screen – as well as the heat drying your eyes out, it places more strain on your eye muscles. Finally, take regular breaks and try to find other tasks that don’t involve screen work.

Why do hormonal changes, such as being pregnant, affect eyesight?
The fluid levels in both the cornea and the tear film are under hormonal control. Small changes in these fluid levels can lead to changes in a person’s prescription or tear quality. It is common for post-menopausal and pregnant women to experience dry-eye symptoms.

Does diet affect eye health?
A number of studies have found links between eye health and diet. Omega-3s have been found to reduce the symptoms of dry eye, while vitamin C supplements can help treat blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelids). Taking antioxidant vitamin supplements and the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin can reduce the progression of dry, agerelated macular degeneration, the commonest cause of severe visual impairment in the UK.

Is laser surgery effective?
Laser surgery can be very eŠffective in patients with low to moderate degrees of short sight, long sight and astigmatism. It is less effective in those with the strongest prescription and some patients may be unsuitable. It is less beneficial in patients above the age of 45, who require a separate prescription for reading.

Do you only feel the full effects of laser treatment if you have it at a young age?
If you have a laser procedure carried out in your 20s, you should enjoy many years of freedom from glasses. Presbyopia, the requirement for reading spectacles as we age, is more di” cult to treat. For this reason, if you have a laser procedure when you are 40, you may not have to wear glasses for five to 10 years. If a 60-year-old has laser treatment, they normally have their distance prescription corrected, but they still require reading glasses. Older patients are often advised to have lensreplacement surgery, with the option of getting a multi-focal implant, which can give clear vision at all distances.

When is the right time for a long-term contact-lens wearer to get laser surgery?
If you’re a contact-lens wearer, you may never feel the need to opt for laser surgery, particularly with the availability of continuouswear contact lenses, which can be worn day and night. However, if your contact lenses are not ful lling your requirements, then it may be worth seeking advice at a laser clinic to see if your situation could be improved.

What new procedures and products are available?
In the past few years the biggest change in high-street optical practice has been the arrival of retinal photography. This allows optometrists to store retinal photographs, which can then be compared with those taken on a patient’s subsequent visit, to check for any changes.

How can I protect my family’s eyes from the sun?
Long-term exposure to ultraviolet radiation can cause a number of eye problems, including cataracts and macular degeneration. Protect your eyes by wearing a wide-brimmed hat and UV-blocking spectacles or contact lenses. Remember, children’s eyes are more vulnerable to the harmful eŠffects of ultraviolet radiation.

Is there a way to stop a child’s eyes deteriorating?
Optical scientists are trying to develop special contact lenses that an optician would fit to a young, short-sighted child to try to slow down the deterioration of their eyes. They have had some success but these lenses are not yet available in the UK. In children, prolonged closescreen interaction, such as playing computer games, has been shown to worsen the eyesight. However, the more time that children spend playing outside, the slower the rate of deterioration in their eyesight.

Can carrots really help you to see in the dark?
Not really. Carrots contain beta-carotene, a carotenoid that gives carrots their orange colour. It is a precursor of vitamin A, which is essential to the normal function of the retina. Having said that, it would be very unusual for a UK resident to be so de cient in vitamin A that their eyesight would be affected.

For more eyecare advice: www.specsavers.co.uk/eyehealth