May 29, 2017 0308 GMT
A recent breakthrough by British scientists, which could lead to much earlier detection of glaucoma and other eye conditions, offers new hope, express.co.uk reported.
But the discovery also underlines how slowly and silently eye disease develops, as it pinpoints signs of damage up to a decade before anything can be detected with existing tests.
Professor Francesca Cordeiro, from University College London, explained, “We have been able to identify sick nerve cells at the back of the eye which will go on to cause the vision loss you get with glaucoma. They are a very early warning sign of what is going to happen.”
Yet a new study for eye care specialists Bausch and Lomb found that almost nine out of 10 of those questioned were not aware of the risk and did not realize that eye disease often develops without any symptoms.
Optometrist Francesca Marchetti, an optical expert from eye care advisory panel WINK, said: “With more of us living for longer, it has never been more important to proactively protect your eyesight.
“Diet, lifestyle and family history have a big impact on our risk of eye disease.
“We can’t choose our genes, but we can all make nutrition and lifestyle choices which will help insure against eye problems.”
Francesca explained that how these different risk factors can play out and how to protect against problems.
Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of blindness in the UK and it is estimated that one in 10 people over the age of 65 has some degree of AMD.
However the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) found those at highest risk because of their family history can dramatically reduce their odds of AMD by taking a specific combination of vitamins C and E, zinc and the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin.
Francesca added, “We are taking very high levels of very specific nutrients, which cannot be obtained from a healthy diet or a standard multivitamin.
“Lutein and zeaxanthin are important because they are both found in high concentrations in the macula, which is responsible for central high-resolution vision.
“Leafy greens are a good source, but you would need to eat more than three cups of raw spinach a day to get the amount used in the AREDS formulation.”
Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of preventable sight loss among working-age Britons.
Most people with type 1 diabetes will have some degree of retinopathy within 20 years of diagnosis and two out of three people with type 2 are affected.
Francesca said, “Type 2 diabetes is largely preventable. It can still be treated in the early stages but there are no symptoms, so regular eye examinations are crucial.”
A recent study found a daily intake of 500mg of omega-3 reduces the risk of retinopathy in middle-aged and older people with diabetes by 46 percent.
However the National Diet and Nutrition Survey shows our consumption of oily fish — the richest food source of omega-3 — is well below the recommended two portions a week.
Francesca said, “If you have diabetes, or your weight puts you at risk, increasing your intake of omega-3 is a wise move.”
This occurs when increased pressure within the eyeball damages the optic nerve but sufferers can lose 90 percent of their optic nerve before realizing there is a problem.
It becomes more common with age and diabetes or a family history increase the risk.
Low levels of omega-3 have been linked to increased intraocular pressure and studies have shown supplementation reduces pressure in the eyeball.
Refractive errors, such as long or short-sight and presbyopia, are caused by a problem with the curvature of the cornea or lens, resulting in blurred vision.
Francesca said, “Presbyopia usually begins around the age of 40 but poor diet and too much Sun increase the chance of developing problems.”
These occur when the lens becomes cloudy and opaque.
Most people over the age of 65 have some impairment but poor diet, too much Sun, diabetes, smoking and sun damage can all add to the risk.
Francesca said, “Damage to the lens is caused by oxidation, so antioxidants can provide an important insurance policy. Studies have shown that higher intakes of vitamin E, zinc, lutein and zeaxanthin reduce the risk."