When it comes to our health, people can often be complacent about preventative care.  We are all guilty of not going to get a medical issue seen to unless it becomes a concern.  With the huge advancements in medical technology and treatments of recent years, coupled with the remarkable changes in life expectancy, half of all those born in 2000 may live to be 100.  This poses a considerable challenge for our healthcare system to deliver advanced medical care to an expanding older population. 

The saying ‘the eyes are the window to the soul’ is very true, and often when an eye problem presents, it can be an indicator of another underlying medical condition.  The eye is not an isolated unit and has complicated relationships with numerous other bodily systems and functions including that of the brain and nervous system.  Many eye diseases are associated with general medical conditions and many general systemic conditions affect eye health.

Regular Sight Tests are essential for maintaining healthy eyes.

More than half of all sight loss is avoidable when detected early and a regular eye test can identify early indications of eye diseases such as cataract, glaucoma, diabetes and Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD).   Many age-related conditions can be successfully treated if detected early.

The Eye Doctors of Ireland are encouraging people to take positive New Year resolution steps to protect their sight, an action aimed at ultimately improving the nation's eye health and contributing towards a reduction in avoidable sight loss. 

Diet – eat the right foods

Studies show that what we eat can affect our vision. Foods that are particularly high in antioxidants can help to prevent retinal damage and certain eye conditions like cataract and age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD). An anti-oxidant which hugely beneficial is lutein, found in many fruit and vegetables.

Foods recommended for eye health include:

  • Broad leaf greens such as kale and spinach
  • Brightly coloured fruit and veg such as corn, carrots, orange sweet peppers and oranges
  • Oily fish like salmon, tuna and mackerel
  • Broccoli
  • Eggs

Look at your lifestyle habits:

Exercise Lack of exercise contributes significantly to several eye conditions, particularly amongst people aged 60 and over. Exercise may reduce the risk of sight loss from narrowing or hardening of the arteries, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Alcohol Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to serious health conditions which can have a detrimental effect on your eye health.

Smoking After ageing, smoking is the biggest risk factor for developing macular degeneration. Smoking also increases your risk of developing cataract. 

Know your family eye health history: Certain eye conditions can be hereditary, such as glaucoma.  When detected early, it can be treated and controlled and therefore it would be very beneficial to know if this condition has been in your family history so you can be tested.

Take care in the sun: Wearing sunglasses reduces the risks of damaging your eyes as a result of the strong ultra violet light from the sun’s rays.  Check your glasses have a UV factor and carry the CE mark which indicates they meet the European safety standards. Once you have the right sunglasses, make sure you wear them, especially in the summer when UV levels are at least three times higher than in the winter. Also be sure to wear them when participating in winter sports such as skiing, particularly at high elevations.

Computer screen breaks:  It is very important to take frequent breaks from your computer screen, at least once an hour to allow your eyes to rest.  This will help to avoid problems such as eye strain, lack of focus, and headaches.  If you have long documents to read, print them off and use to work alongside your computer.


People who have diabetes are at risk of developing a condition called diabetic retinopathy and should ensure they have regular eye tests to enable early detection and treatment.   The Eye Doctors of Ireland have welcomed the decision for the roll out of a national Diabetic Retinopathy Screening programme aimed at preventing sight loss for those with the condition. The screening programme aims to reach, over time, an estimated growing population of 190,000 patients aged 12 and older with diabetes in Ireland in need of screening for potential further eye complications.

How to make an appointment to see an Eye Doctor

For an appointment to see any medical specialist working in the HSE, including eye doctors, you need to get a referral from your General Practitioner (GP). A GP has knowledge of the specialists in his/her area and can ensure that any important information relating to your medical history is passed to the eye doctor.

While it is advisable to seek a referral from your GP many eye doctors working in the community will give you an appointment directly - see eye doctors in Ireland.

4th January 2017