What’s really putting your eyesight at risk

Aug 27, 2021
PHOTO: Shutterstock

THE RICH, immersive, and ultra-high resolution view streamed to your brain daily, courtesy of your eyeballs, is made possible by a light-sensitive sliver of receptors and blood vessels at the back of your eyes. It’s called a retina, and it’s an amazing bit of biomechanics.

“If the eye is like a camera, the retina is the film,” said ophthalmologist Pearl Tamesis-Villalon in an interview with Men’s Health Philippines.

This thin layer, as well as the rest of the components that make up your eyes, is a hardy piece of equipment. But even so, without proper care and maintenance, they can break down. And unlike, say, a 4K TV, you can’t just throw your eyeballs out and pick up another set at the mall.

Here are four risk factors that you need to, ahem, watch when it comes to eye care.

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    Eye strain


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    Contrary to what your grandmother used to tell you, reading in the dark will not make you go blind.

    ““Madaling mapagod ang mata mo so kung hindi tama ang ilaw, pero di ka naman magkakaroon ng sakit ng mata,” said ophthalmologist Dr. Albert Mamaril to Men’s Health.

    Nevertheless, in a time when many of us are glued to our screens for most of the entire day, eye strain can be a serious problem. Take breaks away from your screen, tone down the lighting in your space, wear proper glasses that have been prescribed to you — and yes, listen to lola: Don’t read in the dark.

    Smoking


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    In terms of picking up light, the macula is one of the most sensitive parts of the retina. It can also wear down, because of time and genetic factors. Of course, these are two things that are beyond your control.

    “We can't do anything about age, we can't do anything about heredity,” said Villalon about macular degeneration. “But we can talk about modifiable risk factors. We’re talking about smoking. That’s a modifiable risk factor, and you don’t have to smoke.”

    Chemicals present in cigarettes and cigarette smoke can leach into your bloodstream, and when these hit your retina, damage may occur. Smoking increases your risk of macular degeneration by as much as two to four times, according to research.

    So, if you need more reasons to quit the habit, add “avoid possible blindness” to the list.

    Diabetes


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    One of the leading causes of terminal blindness around the world is actually diabetes. This deadly disease wreaks havoc on many organs — and the eyes are definitely not spared, as diabetic retinopathy is one of its most common complications.

    Diabetes damages the arteries in your eyes, causing leaking and swelling. “In the later stages,” Mamaril explained, “you develop new blood vessels—called neovascular vessels—that are prone to bleeding.”

    An expensive surgical procedure called vitrectomy can become necessary, as doctors try to save your eyesight by shaving away the layer of abnormal blood vessels.

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    Don’t let it get to that point. “If your blood sugar is in good control, you prevent the complication known as retinopathy,” said Dr. Jeremy Robles in a press conference this year about diabetes.

    Your diet


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    Besides helping prevent diabetes, improving your diet can also lead to other benefits for your eyes. Beyond the Vitamin A that’s been drilled into our heads since grade school, other micronutrients are essential in preventing macular degeneration.

    A balanced diet that includes green, leafy vegetables will go a long way in helping to maintain your eyesight for the long run.

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