More than half of the patients that seek attention from an eye doctor are actually doing so because of lifestyles that involve increasing dependence on screens. Add to this the patients of glaucoma and diabetic eye disease, and you will realize that almost two thirds of the diseases affecting the eyes can actually be prevented and modified by a healthier lifestyle. In fact, diabetes, glaucoma and Computer Vision Syndrome are all eye diseases caused by lifestyle health hazards of today.
Eye diseases and Diabetes
High levels of blood sugar can damage the blood vessels in the retina, which is the light sensitive portion of the eye, and can actually lead to decrease in vision and even permanent blindness. This is because these blood vessels become fragile and leak blood and proteins, leading to hemorrhages and swelling in the retina. This is called diabetic retinopathy and macular edema or maculopathy. In addition, prolonged damage to the retinal blood vessels can lead to formation of new blood vessels which are also prone to bleeding and scarring. This disease is called proliferative diabetic retinopathy.
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Diabetes also increases the incidence and progression of cataract (clouding of the natural lens of the eye) and glaucoma.
Diabetes can also lead to increased incidence and severity of glaucoma (the incidence of glaucoma in diabetics is twice that in normal population). Glaucoma is a group of disorders that are caused usually by increased eye pressures that affect the optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain. The vision loss due to glaucoma is often gradual and painless, and always irreversible, and can therefore cause blindness. Also, use of steroids (prescribed by doctors/ quacks as well as gym instructors) can lead to an increased risk of glaucoma. Trauma to the eye can also cause glaucoma.
Computer Vision Syndrome
Of diabetes, glaucoma and Computer Vision Syndrome, the latter is actually an eye disease which is only caused by our lifestyle, and constitutes a major health hazard of today. Computer Vision Syndrome is a condition caused by prolonged screen time in front of computer or laptops. Patients usually complain of persistent and frequent headaches, fatigue, strain, dryness and redness. This is because of the dry eyes induced by prolonged staring at screens without blinking, and because of a prolonged convergence spasm induced by long hours of near work.
How do you safeguard yourself against diabetes, glaucoma and Computer Vision Syndrome-all the eye diseases caused by lifestyle health hazards of today?
The best way to safeguard yourself against these diseases is by adopting the following lifestyle changes:
Pursue a more active lifestyle, make sure you incorporate some exercise in your everyday routine.
Make sure your weight is under control, and so are your blood sugars, blood pressure and serum cholesterol.
Follow a healthy diet, with fruits, vegetables and omega three fatty acids.
Wear sunglasses with complete UV protection when outside.
Make sure you go for your annual comprehensive eye exams so your eye doctor can evaluate risk of disease and suggest lifestyle modifications at an early stage.
Wear protective eye wear.
Do not self-medicate. Always discuss the need for steroids with your doctor.
Take frequent breaks when working on your computer. Remember the 20-20-20 rule.
Remember to blink.
Limit your screen time whether it is computers, television or smartphones.
Ensure at least 8 hours of sleep to rest your eyes and body.