The pandemic has obviously changed the way we live. We are spending our lives in the virtual world — working, shopping and even schooling. Our eyes can suffer from staring at screens and eyes are prone to becoming dry besides bringing the organ a fair amount of strain. Multiple studies have reported prolonged near-work induces nearsightedness or myopia. A healthy pair of eyes is truly a great blessing. Lets protect it in every possible manner, simplest being the nutritional way.
Computer Vision Syndrome is a temporary eye condition caused by focusing on a computer screen for long periods of time without breaks. It is also referred to as Digital Eye Strain, and can also result from prolonged use of tablets and smartphones. The rapid increase in screen time during the pandemic may have greatly increased the number of people suffering from Computer Vision Syndrome.
Symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome
- Irritated eyes/eyestrain
- Blurry vision
- Dry eyes
- Neck/shoulder pain
Possible symptoms that a person could be experiencing include...
- Frequent changes in visual clarity
- Seeing distorted images
- Seeing floaters or flashes in the field of vision
- Reduced peripheral vision (helps view objects and scenes that lie around us, without the need to turn their heads or move their eyes)
NOURISH YOUR EYES
Just like one’s body, the eyes too need nutrients to function optimally. Malnutrition or undernutrition can also affect eyesight to a great extent. Some nutrients keep the eye healthy overall, and some have been found to reduce the risk of eye diseases. It’s also been purported that some foods can improve one’s eyesight. What you eat may affect what you see.
A diet low in fat and rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains helps improve cardiovascular health and also the eyes. Your eyes depend on tiny arterioles for oxygen and nutrients, just as the heart relies on much larger arteries. Keeping arteries healthy will help your vision too.
Eye conditions that you may be able to prevent with a healthy diet include...
- Cataracts l Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) l Glaucoma
- Dry eyes l Poor night vision
Your eyes need many types of vitamins and antioxidants to stay healthy. These include….
Lutein and Zeaxanthin: They are carotenoids found in the retina, and consuming foods rich in these compounds has been shown to have antioxidant properties and to improve pigment density in the macula (small central area in the retina that allow us to see fine details clearly). This pigment protects the cells in the macular area by absorbing excess blue and ultraviolet light and neutralising free radicals. Lutein and zeaxanthin that are usually found together in food may prevent cataracts and macular degeneration.
Vitamin A: May protect against night blindness and dry eyes.
Vitamin C: It acts as an antioxidant, to fight age-related eye damage. May reduce the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration.
Vitamin D: May reduce the risk of macular degeneration.
Vitamin E: It may reduce the risk of advanced AMD when combined with carotenoids and vitamin C. It plays a vital part in safeguarding certain parts of the eye, which is particularly susceptible to oxidative damage.
Beta-carotene: It is likely to reduce the progression of macular degeneration, in combination with zinc and vitamins C and E.
Omega-3 fatty acids: May help prevent macular degeneration (AMD) and dry eyes.
Selenium: When combined with vitamins C and E, may reduce the risk of advanced AMD.
Zinc: It helps in natural production of melanin, a pigment required for eye protection. Night blindness and cataracts are two of the most common implications of zinc deficiency. Moreover, high doses of zinc are also known to slow down the progression of early-stage macular degeneration.
Eggs: This is my first pick for this list, as it offers a complete package for great eyesight. If you discard the yolks, don’t, for it is the egg yolk, which contains vitamin A, lutein, zeaxanthin and zinc, which are all vital to eye health. The zinc in the egg will help your body use the lutein and zeaxanthin from its yolk. The yellow-orange colour of these compounds blocks harmful blue light from damaging your retina. Vitamin A safeguards the cornea and helps in night vision along with zinc. Eggs are also good sources of vitamins C and E. Eggs from free-range chicken are known to contain optimal amount of lutein and zeaxanthin.
Oily fish: It’s the oil in the fish, which contains the beneficial Omega-3 fatty acids, which keeps the retina healthy. Some studies have found that fish oil can reverse dry eye, including dry eye caused by spending too much time watching the screen. A meta-analysis of relevant studies has concluded that people who consumed fish have the lowest risk of age-related macular degeneration and eye diseases. It is recommended to include two-three servings of oily fish in your meal plan. The fish that contains the most beneficial levels of Omega-3s include tuna, salmon, trout, mackerel, sardines, anchovies, hilsa and pomfret. For those who don’t eat fish, try adding freshly ground flax seeds in your diet. They are high in Omega-3s and are a rich source of vitamin E too.
Beef: Beef is not just for muscle building, it can work wonders for your eyesight. The high zinc content of beef makes it an excellent choice for eye health. It helps in delaying age-related vision loss and macular degeneration. It is great to keep your retina in good shape because the retina and its vascular tissues need zinc for proper functioning. Pumpkin seeds, pine nuts and cashews are good plant-food sources of zinc.
Spinach: It contains two of the most essential antioxidants for eye health — lutein and zeaxanthin. Lutein shields the eye from damage from the glare from the screens of electronic devices. These antioxidants facilitates rich blood flow to your eyes. Include three servings of green leafy vegetables per week.
Red peppers: Bell peppers are packed with eye-friendly vitamin C. But red bell peppers have more vitamin C than the rest and vitamin C helps blood vessels in the eye stay healthy and can lower the risk of getting cataracts. Moreover, red bell peppers are also a rich source of vitamin E, which neutralises oxidative changes and delays aging of the eye and the body. Heat will break down vitamin C in the pepper, so don’t overcook them or eat them raw. They also contain vitamin A.
Sunflower seeds: A Spanish study has shown that people consuming a balanced diet containing vitamin E every day had significantly reduced rates of cataracts and cataract surgery in comparison to those consuming lesser amounts. Sunflower seeds are a very rich source of vitamin E. Consuming 60g of sunflower seeds can provide 15mg of vitamin E per day, which meets the recommended daily value of this strong antioxidant vitamin. This can protect your eyes from oxidative damage caused by light.
Broccoli: Broccoli is a great source of bioflavonoids, which are not just beneficial for the eyes but for overall health. It contains, sulforaphane, which likely protects the eyes from oxidative stress caused by sunlight as well as blue light from the screens, thus reducing the risk of AMD and blindness. It is also rich in lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E, which protects the eye cells from free radical damage.
Sweet potatoes: They are rich in beta-carotene which protects the eyes from age-related degenerative changes. The body converts beta -carotene into vitamin A, which aids in night vision (your eyes’ ability to adjust to darkness) and colour vision. It also helps in prevention of dry eyes. If you don’t like sweet potatoes, try carrots or papayas to reap the same eye benefits.
Water: If you experience eye irritation or they turn red often, then you must reach out for a glass of water or two, because dehydration exacerbates dry eye condition. The eyes need fluid for lubrication and to wash off foreign particles and harmful substances. Water also acts as a coolant to the eyes, giving it relief and much-needed relaxation after a long day at the screen.
Hena Nafis is a consultant nutritionist and the owner of nutrition and lifestyle clinic Nutrience, and the health cafe, Eat Good Food. You can follower her on Facebook and Instagram @officialhenanafis
All information provided reflect the columnist’s opinions and readers are suggested to consult a medical practitioner before following the advice
Eye fatigue is one of the major causes of digital eye strain. Give your eyes a break by doing the following:
- 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look at an object at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. This will relax the eye muscle and reduce fatigue.
- Look at a faraway object for 10-15 seconds, then look at an up-close object for 10-15 seconds. This will also help relieve strain on the eyes.