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Make eye health a priority

We take our eyesight for granted – until there’s a crisis. Here’s how to take preventative action.

  • Health
  • Read Time: 6 mins

The nation’s optometrists are concerned that eye health issues are increasing despite the finding that 75% of Australians value vision as their most important sense.

Research by Optometry Australia also shows that more than 1 in 10 Australians have never seen an optometrist and, in 2022, 26% had not had their eyes checked since 2019 or before.

Optometry Australia is encouraging seniors to reflect on their current health habits and routines to identify how we can make positive changes for the future. Prioritising good vision, for life, should be top of the list.

Regular eye check-ups can detect potential issues early, allowing for timely intervention. 

The good news is 90% of blindness or vision impairment is preventable or treatable. The earlier people start looking after their eyes, the better chance of them maintaining good vision. 

Optometry Australia recommends having a complete eye examination every two years to be sure any early signs of serious disease are identified.

Age and eyesight

Few older people would be surprised that eyesight and eye health changes as we age. Treatable eye conditions that are common in older age include:

  • Presbyopia is a vision problem where you may notice it is more difficult to read things that are close by. You need to hold things further away to see them clearly. Presbyopia is treated with reading glasses, which your optometrist can prescribe.

  • Cataracts is a condition that affects the lens of the eye. If a cataract develops, the lens becomes cloudy. They may be treated with surgery.

  • Glaucomais a type of vision loss caused by damage to the optic nerve (one of the nerves that connects the eye and the brain).

  • Aged-related macular degeneration (AMD) leads to a loss of central vision. Treatment can slow down the progression of AMD, so it's important to identify AMD early with regular eye checks.
  • Diabetic retinopathy affects many people with diabetes, especially those who have had it for a long time. You can help reduce your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy by maintaining good blood sugar control and getting regular eye checks.

  • Dry eye is especially common in older people. It happens when your tears do not provide enough lubrication. You can reduce symptoms by using quality lubricating eye drops.

Slip on those sunnies

Did you know the southern hemisphere experiences about 7% higher levels of UV radiation than the northern hemisphere?

This is due to lower pollution levels and clearer air, which comes with a risk.

Invest in a pair of high-quality sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays and wear them consistently, especially on sunny days.

Staying indoors all the time is not the best option. Researchers from China and Australia have discovered that spending about an extra 1.25 hours per day outside reduces the risk of developing myopia (shortsightedness) by 50%. 

You should also fuel your eyes with the nutrients they need by eating food that is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, lutein, zeaxanthin, antioxidants, and vitamins A, C, and E. 

Foods including salmon, spinach, strawberries, capsicum, sweet potato, almonds, and hazelnuts will serve your eyes.

You should also drink water and other healthy fluids – about 2.6 litres a day for men and 2 litres a day for women.

Staying well-hydrated helps maintain the fluid balance in your eyes, preventing dryness and irritation. 

Smoking is linked to an increased risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataracts and other eye conditions such as dry eye. 

Optometrists say smoking can increase the risk by up to four times and some studies indicate that those individuals who smoke tend to exhibit reduced levels of the macular pigments lutein and zeaxanthin.

You should also look at your surroundings, making sure you have adequate and suitable lighting for your home and office. If you use a computer, position the monitor at eye level and adjust it to reduce glare.

Quality sleep will also help, because this is when your body undertakes the essential process of repairing and rejuvenating eye cells, contributing to their overall health and proper functioning. Seven to nine hours of sleep each night gives your eyes the rest time they need.

This tool can help you book an appointment with your nearest optometrist.

Related reading: Health Direct, Good Vision For Life


John Austin

John Austin

Policy and Communications Officer, National Seniors Australia

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