Studies have shown that for most of those with poor eye health, eye impairments, and vision loss, the consequences are likely to go way beyond seeing objects as doubled, distorted or a blur, and into the arena of quality of life, which involves functioning and convenience and emotional well-being. And, according to Australian behavioural optometrist Jacqueline Gattegno, in some cases this happens without them being consciously aware that it’s their vision that’s causing it.
Not Getting the Message
She says most vision problems, and not only the most obvious and serious ones such as glaucoma, myopia (shortsightedness), macular degeneration and cataract, can affect people psychologically, mentally, and physically. Some of the less publicised eye issues such as eye misalignment, too much or too little convergence of the eyes, and focus difficulties, affect how people view the world and their place in it, as well as how they react to their immediate environment, what happens in it, and the people who live in it.
“This is not surprising, as the eyes as the primary sense receive about 80% of the information people need to function in their world, and the importance of that information is evident in that the largest part of the brain is consigned to the processing of that information into usable and understandable images,” Gattegno says.
When there is a glitch in the visual system in which the brain processes information about sight received from the eyes into understandable and relevant images that information may be skewed by visual problems. This can result in the processed images returned by the brain being compromised, misleading, and difficult to understand.
It can also affect visual perception and the skills attached to it, such as the development of motor skills, the ability to track moving objects, and, most of all, the ability to understand what is being seen, and its relevance. Not having these skills can lead to a poor self-image and result in poor function, performance and behaviour. It also doubles the risk of depression and anxiety.
Getting on the Path to Eye Health
Regular professional eye check-ups, both in the standard form which determines only the acuity of the sight, and in terms of vision checks which look into the perceptual, behavioural and functional parts of vision, play a vital part in ensuring good eye health, both for adults and their children. It’s very important, and possible vision saving, to respond to any signs that suggest there might be visual problems by not waiting for the annual check-up to come round, and consulting an eye specialist immediately.
Gattegno says there are other ways to support eye health, without too much effort. These involve adopting new attitudes and side-lining certain habits, like spending too much time staring at a screen, sitting inside most of the time, and smoking. Increased time spent outdoors under natural light, and fitting in some exercise, are all positive steps to take.
Protection and Diet
She says protecting the eyes is another vital issue. Ways and reasons to do so include wearing UV blocking sunglasses as a shield against cataract, damage to the retina and the eyelids and growths on the eye, some of which could be cancerous. It is also important to use proper eye protection when playing sports or when doing repairs or projects that could injure the eyes.
When it comes to diet, Gattegno says that it is best for those with visual problems, diseases or allergies to check with an eye specialist and/or doctor first regarding food and drink choices.
The standard recommendation is to avoid highly processed foods, fast-foods such as pre-packed dinners, burgers, milkshakes, and other sugary drinks, as well as carbohydrates, margarine and fried foods. which can lead to clogging in the thin arteries which supply blood to the eyes. Instead, Gattegno suggests adopting eating habits that involve foods which are low in chemicals, sugar and fat and go for sources which supply vitamins and minerals essential for good eye health and function.
This includes Vitamin A, which keeps the light-sensing cells in the eyes in shape for collecting visual information, and is found in orange vegetables and fruits like apricots, carrots, sweet potatoes;andVitamin C in citrus such oranges, lemons, grapefruit, some berries, bell peppers and tomatoes. Vitamin E from avocados, nuts, almonds and sunflower seeds, have been shown to slow the progression of macular degeneration and cataract, as well as protecting eyes from too much processed food and smoking.
Taking a similar role are the two anti-oxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin, found in some leafy green vegetables such as kale, turnip greens, spinach,romaine lettuce, peas and broccoli; as well as thezinc in chickpeas, beans, oysters, lean beef and yogurt.
For more information on vision and the importance of eye health, or to book an appointment for a thorough eye or vision check-up, visit the Smart Vision website: Optometrists Sydney: Optometry Services For Children and Adults | Smart Vision; for specific information about Myopia treatment and prevention visit Myopia Prevention: Solutions, Control And Treatment In Sydney; and for detailed information about Myopia Treatment visit Orthokeratology In Sydney: The Non Surgical Alternative.
To book an appointment for a thorough eye check-up, click here or Call the Bondi clinic on (02) 9365 5047 or the Mosman clinic on (02) 9969 1600.