Eye Health Q&A with Laser Eye Surgeon Professor Dan Reinstein – Part 2

Here is the second of our 3-part Q&A session with Professor Dan Reinstein about the importance of taking care of your eyes.

Why do you stress the importance of having regular eye tests?

“The fact is that many eye conditions are treatable with early detection but, if they are allowed to progress beyond a certain point, they can be devastating. We only get one pair of eyes, so this really is too important to ignore. An additional reason for having regular eye tests – as if this wasn’t enough! – is that sometimes general health conditions are first detected in the eyes. The eyes are the only organs that you can really ‘see inside’ without invasive procedures, and this means that eye exams can sometimes reveal serious health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and even some cancers in other parts of the body.”

What myths do you tend to hear about eye health?

“There seem to be a lot of myths surrounding eye care and eye health – so this is a really important question. A common myth I hear is that regularly wearing glasses makes your eyesight worse. This simply isn’t true; you may get a headache if your glasses prescription is not accurate, but it cannot harm your eyes. What is crucial, however, is that young children who need glasses must wear accurately prescribed glasses as much as possible. Amblyopia (lazy eye) can be treatable if detected early – ideally before the age of 5. The treatment may be as easy as wearing glasses or may involve partial or total temporary patching of one eye. If amblyopia is left untreated beyond the age of 8, there is a much higher risk of developing permanent amblyopia, and of significant visual loss in the affected eye as a result. In fact, amblyopia is the most common cause of permanent visual loss in children in the developed world. Therefore, regular eye examinations for all children are absolutely critical, and are available on the NHS for everyone.”

Are there diet and lifestyle changes that people can make to improve their eye health?

“Diet and lifestyle are quite relevant to eye health.

With respect to Macular Degeneration, a major clinical trial called the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) showed a significant link between the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin and a reduced risk of AMD. These antioxidants can be found in green leafy vegetables, blueberries, bilberries and tomatoes for example; it’s generally not necessary to take expensive ocular supplements, if you’re healthy and have a good diet. Beta-carotene (found in carrots) also had similar effects – so it’s not entirely a myth that carrots can help you see! However beta-carotene supplements were also shown to produce an increased risk of developing lung-cancer in smokers.

Dry eye symptoms are very common in the population. More than half of people suffering from dry eye symptoms actually have something called meibomian gland dysfunction. This is a condition where the tear film quality is low because the oil component is abnormal. Purified Omega 3, found in oily fish such as herring, mackerel, and fresh tuna, can help to reduce dry eye symptoms by improving the oil phase of the tear film.”

Read part one of this series again.