What is good for eyes in summer?
Temperature, weather, age and modern-day living can all have an impact on how our eyes cope day-to-day. Dry, itchy, tired eyes are some of the irritating niggles we may experience every day.
Working with A.Vogel is Cheshire-based Optometrist Ian White. He advocates that looking after our wellbeing and a little extra TLC can be good for eyes, too. The eyes are delicate organs which are on the front line being exposed to the environment, and simply stocking up on your own eyecare wellbeing kit will help soothe and keep your eyes in the best of health. Here’s How:
Seasonal eye care
Warmer months can bring sore, itchy, watering eyes from airborne pollutants such as pollen in hay fever. Whereas the cold weather and gusting winds of cooler months can cause evaporation of our tear film causing dry eye irritations. “This is made worse when we go indoors and put the heating on, this de-humidifies the air in our homes which again causes dry eyes. The cooler air outside is also less humid, so our tears are more likely to evaporate. Central heating also causes this same effect, so for those suffering, a room humidifier may be of benefit,” explains Ian.
“In the winter we also spend more time indoors, which again may increase our screen time, compared to the summer months. Cooler weather can increase the consumption of hot drinks like tea and coffee, which if they contain caffeine can cause dehydration and contribute to dry eye symptoms.
“The winter months are also prime ones for airborne diseases such as the common cold and flu. It is common to get ‘pink eye’ when you have a cold. In adults, eye infections are most commonly caused by viruses whereas in children it is more often due to bacteria which have been transferred to the eyes causing inflamed eye infections.”
Many people suffer from allergic conjunctivitis (inflammation of the white of the eye), which can cause itchy, burning eyes, redness, watering of the eye and puffiness around the eyelids. Seasonal allergic conjunctivitis is normally due to hay fever, but perennial allergic conjunctivitis can be caused by dust mites and pets.
Ian White’s good for eyes checklist
Year-round eye care
It’s a bit like going to the dentist for regular hygiene visits: taking care of our eyes with regular check-ups is vital. All adults should attend the optometrist every two years for a routine check-up, or annually for children and the elderly.
Euphrasia – Herbal drops of relief
Soothing eye drops such as A.Vogel Eye Drops and A.Vogel Extra Moisturising Eye Drops (10ml, £13.50 www.avogel.co.uk) (containing Euphrasia, (Eyebright) will provide relief to troubled eyes during the summer and winter, whether they are inflamed from allergies or conjunctivitis, itchy, dry or watery. The herb Euphrasia is native to the UK and has been used for hundreds of years to treat eye problems, earning its alternative name ‘Eyebright’. It has anti-inflammatory and astringent properties which, when used in sterile eye drops or as an eyewash, lubricate the eyes and may help soothe them by countering inflammation and thereby reducing redness and irritation.
Eye compresses that you can keep in a fridge can offer cooling relief for sore eyes and are available via pharmacies without prescription. Conversely, eye masks that can be gently heated and worn over the eyes can offer relief for dry eyes
“Tension and stress can impact on your visual skills. Symptoms can include eyestrain and fatigue, headaches, a feeling that your glasses and contacts aren’t quite right, a difficulty concentrating, watering eyes, sensitivity to light, poor eye-hand coordination and the eye constantly twitching,” Ian explains. “Sleep is important for eye health as the eyes are replenished with essential nutrients when you sleep. Most importantly, deal with your stress by talking to someone or seeking help and finding ways to help you relax.”
“Dry eye disease is multifactorial, so whilst eye drops offer immediate relief, daily attention to hygiene around the eyes and eyelids is important. Regular hygiene around the eye and eyelid area is vital especially if you wear cosmetics,” says Ian. A hot eye compress combined with eyelid massage can prove extraordinarily effective, relieving chronic symptoms and avoiding future complications such as conjunctivitis and keratitis, a serious inflammation of the cornea making it vulnerable to ulceration and infection which can potentially threaten vision. “Also supplements like Omega-3 and Evening Primrose Oil have been shown to be effective in reducing symptoms of dryness”, adds Ian.
Itchy eyes – the major ‘don’t’ with itchy eyes, advises Ian, is to keep itching them! This will only cause more irritation. Swimming in chlorinated pools can also cause sore / itchy eyes to worsen. If symptoms are severe or persist for long periods, then doing nothing is not an option – consult your Optometrist as soon as possible.
Conjunctivitis is common and can be caused by a raft of things, either viral or bacterial, as well as by allergies to irritants such as pollen or even animal fur, smoke and pollutants. It is where the protective membrane of the eyes (known as the conjunctiva) becomes inflamed. Bacterial infections where the eye lids become inflamed are known as blepharitis are also quite common, but are all easily relieved with anti-inflammatory Euphrasia eye drops such as mentioned above.
Keeping eyes hydrated
“Believe it or not watery eyes is actually a sign of them being too dry as your eyes are overproducing tears. To keep them hydrated you should invest in eyedrops that add moisture before your eyes become gritty and uncomfortable throughout the day. Additionally, why not swap contact lenses for glasses or if you don’t wear either but still have dry eyes, utilise your sunglasses to protect your eyes. Inside out hydration is just as important for our eyes as it is for the rest of the body and it also helps to flush out salt in the body and properly hydrate the eyes to help reduce eye strain.”
“With all the changes in the last year more people have spent more time online or on mobile devices staring intently at some sort of screen or device for more than three hours a day. Also, our new working environment and ‘tech revolution’ has put a strain on our eyesight.” Ian says, “Working from home can cause increased screen time, since many workers forget to ‘clock-off’ as they would do when in a formal office environment. Also, when taking breaks from home working there are more electronic distractions such as TV’s, tablets and smartphones available in the home that will again increase the overall screen use in the home and so further exacerbate any dry eye problems the person may have.”
“Some simple principles such as making sure your screen and glasses are clean, investing in anti-reflective lenses. Also thinking about your lighting and most importantly the 20/20 rule: work for 20 minutes then look 20 feet away.”
It’s really important to get the right eye gear – ranging from sunglasses to protect your eyes from harmful UV rays to protective safety eyewear to prevent damage caused by DIY accidents.
“Ultraviolet (UV) light is a major ageing factor to the eyes and the skin around the eyes. It causes cataracts and macular degeneration (AMD) amongst other things, so it is always recommended to wear UV protective sunglasses and possibly a sun hat on bright days.” Ian explains.
“Shopping shortcuts when it comes to buying lenses can be fraught with the ubiquity of online shopping,” says Ian White as “many people are turning to the internet to buy their contact lenses, often without the proper advice or sometimes even buying completely the wrong lenses. This can result in many contact lens-related infections or injuries that could have been prevented if they had gone via a registered professional.
“Checking best before dates and upgrading your medicine cabinet with a good eye wash solution is also worth doing as you never know when you may need it and once opened and used you can only keep them for a short period of time so do check.”
Age proof eye health
“Your forties is the decade when people start to notice changes in their eye health and for women this can be a time of menopausal changes such as the peri/menopause where a drop in oestrogen levels can cause eye dryness,” Ian explains. “Lifestyle factors impact our health and one of these which we may not think about for our eyes is in fact smoking. This is a major ageing factor on both a cosmetic and functional level when it comes to eye health. Smoking has been linked to both AMD and Glaucoma, so if you can quit or even reduce your intake, this will be a massive help to your eye health.”
“The eyes require good nutrition, just like every other part of the body, and so a healthy diet with lots of fruit and vegetables is beneficial to the eyes. One of the myths Ian explains is the misconception that your diet has no bearing on eye health – the eye is one of the most metabolically active parts of the body, even while you are asleep. So, for optimal function, it needs to be given a constant supply of good nutrients via a healthy diet and appropriate supplements.”
“Supplements of Omega 3 are very useful in maximising the lubrication properties of the tears for those suffering from dry eyes. In addition, supplements containing lutein and zeaxanthin are beneficial for a healthy retina and have been shown to slow the progression of macular degeneration (AMD), as well as dry eyes and cataracts which can all occur in later life. As it happens, I take all of these supplements” he says. The old-fashion nod to eating your carrots to help your night vision has some truth in it as we know carrots are rich in beta-carotene an important precursor to vitamin A, so juicing, chomping, grating whatever way you enjoy carrots can be plentiful.
Time to sleep
“Like the rest of our body our eyes need to rest and sleep is great for our eyes as their cells area restored which leads to healthier eyes. Twitchy eyes where you get little eye spasms and again dry eyes can all be restored with some simple shut eye.”
Finally, Ian advises, “If you think you have a problem with your eyes or vision, have it checked out at your local Opticians. The sooner the problem is identified, the sooner it can be resolved and preserve your eye health.”
For more tips on how to protect your vision through the seasons, visit our eye health in later life channel.Last modified: August 8, 2021