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Planning Retirement Online

Better health - In the blink of an eye!


November 2013

As many as one in five people in the UK suffer from dry eye syndrome and winter is the worst time for suffers, especially with indoor heating that dries the air. When Laterlife learned of these statistics, we decided to investigate what it is all about.

We contacted the Eyecare Trust about this problem and asked how it specifically related to people in our more mature age group. The Eyecare Trust is a leading British eye charity that exists to raise awareness of all aspects of eye health and the importance of regular eye care.

Optometrist and trustee of the Eyecare Trust, Rosie Gavzey, gave us some really interesting information about dry eyes.

Dry eye the most common cause of eye irritation in the over 65 age group.

Basically it occurs when the quality or quantity of our tears is insufficient to keep the surface of the cornea in the eye moist. Every time we blink the eyelid spreads tears across the surface of the eye. These tears drain away through the puncta (small openings in the eye lid) into the nose where they evaporate. If tear production is reduced or inhibited in some way our eyes will dry out and cause a painful irritation.

Dry eyes can cause a number of symptoms from mild discomfort that gets worse throughout the day to red, itchy sore and even watery eyes. You may also find that your eyes are particularly sensitive to light and in extreme cases experience deterioration in your vision.

Ms Gavzey told Laterlife that eyes change as we age.

“Often, the constitution of our tears is not as strong as it used to be, and this means eyes can become dry,” she said. “Changes in our hormonal balance as we age can also affect the quality of our tears; and this can be especially true with women once they have gone through the menopause.

“In some cases the changes in eye fluid can mean people who have worn contact lenses all their lives find they are now a problem because the eyes don’t contain the right lubricants.”

Ms Gavzey says remembering to blink regularly is one of the most crucial things to do for healthy eyes.

“Blinking is basically a reflex action but we can also forget to blink! Blinking slowly and deliberately can be really useful to help ensure eyes stay fully lubricated,” she told us.

Rosie also has a tip to test you are blinking “properly”: hold the tips of your index fingers on the outer corners of the eyelids. When you blink normally, your finger should be pulled in.

Another problem is our increased used of tablet devices such as ipads, computers and smart phones, because we tend to stare at the same spot for long periods. There is a 20 20 20 rule that is worth knowing about: every 20 minutes, look up for 20 seconds at something at least 20 feet away.

As well as treating your dry eye with drops or artificial tears Rosie says there are some small lifestyle changes that can help you minimise your risk of suffering dry eye this winter “Eat a diet rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. Oily fish such as tuna, salmon and sardines are all excellent sources of Omega-3. You may also find that an Omega–3 supplement with flaxseed oil, fish oil and vitamin E helpful. Keep hydrated, that means cutting back on coffee consumption and drinking plenty of water or herbal teas. And also, reduce the setting on your central heating and make sure you sit away from direct heat sources such as gas or electric fires.”

If you suffer symptoms of dry eye your optometrist can advise you on the best course of treatment.


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The Eyecare Trust says:

  • 20 million British people risk avoidable sight loss because they fail to have regular sight tests.
  • One in ten British adults have NEVER had an eye examination.
  • 85 per cent of us admit to having problems with our vision.
  • More than 30 million Britons are entitled to FREE eye care (sight tests and / or optical vouchers to cover the cost of any vision correction required) paid for by the NHS.
  • Everyone should have an eye examination once every two years unless advised otherwise by their optometrist. The Trust recommends people aged 70 and over have annual eye examinations.


For more information, visit www.eyecaretrust.org.uk





 

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The above article is part of the features section of laterlife.com called laterlife interest. laterlife interest contains a variety of articles of interest for visitors to laterlife.com written by a number of experienced and new journalists.

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