Do you have a healthy lifestyle? Perhaps you don’t know what constitutes a healthy lifestyle, or may be you are reluctant to admit that some of your habits are harmful for your health and your eyes and may lead to poor vision. Inspired by the global eye health initiative The World Sight Day, we decided to look into the link between lifestyle, eye diseases and vision problems.
Eye heath and vision have become a major public health issues and the interest towards the association between lifestyle exposures and eye diseases in adults has been rapidly increasing in recent years. A growing number of evidence clearly shows that certain lifestyle exposures are significantly associated with risk of several different eye diseases that lead to eyesight problems and poor vision.
In the following lines we will look into some of the most common eye diseases that lead to poor vision and lifestyle factors associated with their onset and development.
“Your eyesight will inevitably decline with age.” Sounds familiar? As it turns out, this may not be the case. While certain eye diseases such as cataract are associated with aging, various lifestyle exposures increase the risk of their early onset and development.
Age-related cataract is clouding of the crystalline lens of the eye. It may occur due to normal age-related changes in the proteins of the lens but also by several “bad” habits:
- Smoking. Smokers have 9% higher risk of developing nuclear cataract and 5% higher risk of developing posterior subcapsular cataract. However, data from the Physician’s Health Study demonstrated that smoking cessation decreased the risk of any type of cataract.
- Alcohol. Although the link between alcohol consumption levels and cataract risk has not been precisely established, some studies suggest that heavy drinkers are exposed to a higher risk of age-related cataract compared to non-drinkers.
- Light exposure. Many studies showed that light exposure increases the risk of cataract, especially in men.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Age-related macular degeneration is one of the most debilitating eye diseases. It develops gradually and leads to permanent vision loss and blindness. Several lifestyle exposures are associated with higher risks of AMD onset and progression:
- Smoking. Many studies have found that smoking significantly increases the incidence and progression of age-related macular degeneration. Some indicate that smokers are 33% more likely to develop AMD.
- Alcohol. Studies have found an increased prevalence (40%) and incidence of age-related macular degeneration associated with alcohol consumption.
- Diet. Although there isn’t enough data to fully support the relationship between diet and risk of age-related macular degeneration, a study found that dietary intake of saturated fats is associated with an 80% increased risk of AMD.
- Light exposure. Although exposure to bright light may damage the retina, there isn’t enough scientific evidence that fully supports the association of light with AMD.
- Physical activity. People with active lifestyle have 70% lower risk of AMD compared to those who are not physically active.
Glaucoma, often called “the silent thief of sight” is an eye disease affecting the opting nerves and leading to severe vision loss and blindness. Although the exact causes of glaucoma are not clear, scientists believe certain lifestyle exposures increase the risk of glaucoma in adults.
- Smoking. Although there isn’t enough systematic evidence that shows a clear connection between smoking and glaucoma, some studies suggest that current smokers are at a higher risk of open-angle glaucoma.
- Diet. Some researchers believe that there is a link between increased omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids consumption and increased risk of open-angle glaucoma.
Dry eye is often chronic eye condition that causes eye and vision discomfort. Although it rarely leads to severe vision complications, making sure your lifestyle doesn’t contribute to the development or progression of dry eye is definitely beneficial for eye health and vision.
- Smoking. Eye experts believe that current smoking is associated with symptoms of dry eye.
- Climate. Frequent exposure to windy and dry climates may increase the risk of dry eye.
- Computer work. People who spend long hours in front a computer screen are more prone to dry eye problems.
- Contact Lenses. Some studies find that contact lenses wearers are more prone to developing dry eye compared to people using glasses.
Refractive errors (nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism)
Newer research debunks the myth that nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism are simply hereditary eye diseases. Researchers found a link between frequent near work and refractive errors. In other words, people who suffer from chronic eye strain due to visually intense tasks are more likely to develop nearsightedness, farsightedness and/or astigmatism regardless of their genetic predisposition.
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