Eyesight is a gift.
It is a big part of our life that enables us to perform daily activities with ease. Unfortunately, our eyesight deteriorates as we age. Although it is the normal ageing process, there are some habits will speed up the deterioration and lead to detrimental effects on your eyes.
Here are the things that can be potentially harmful to your eyes and you should avoid them as best you can!
1. Staring at screens for long hour
We spent a vast amount of time on our computers, tablets, and smartphones for checking emails, reading news, paying bills, attending e-classes, watching TV shows or checking on our social media updates. Our life is inseparable from these digital devices. According to statistic, Malaysians spent an average of 9.17 hours using the internet in the year 2020.1 This number also signified the average hours we spent staring at the screens each day. With work and learn from home become a new norm, it increases the time we expose our eyes to the harmful blue light emitted from the digital displays. Long-term exposure to the low wavelength blue light can be the reason for having symptoms such as frequent headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes and difficulty sleeping.2
2. Not wearing the sunglasses
Wearing your sunglasses whenever you’re basking in the sun is more than just looking cool! The sun is one of the sources of ultraviolet (UV) light, which plays a part in helping your body to produce vitamin D. Unfortunately, too much exposure to UV light also causes the production of free radicals, which are the culprit for eye diseases such as cataract and retinal damage.3
Hence, wearing UV-protective sunglasses whenever you’re outside can help to block the harmful UV radiation. It is also equally important to take into consideration of the size, shape, and wearing position of the sunglasses.3
3. Rubbing the eyes
Habitually rubbing your eyes when awakening, before sleep or anytime throughout the day? It’s best to try avoiding or limiting yourself from doing it started now. The study had shown that repetitive eye rubbing increases the pressure inside the eyes and causes thinning of the cornea, a condition known as keratoconus.4 This will also result in blurred vision, increased sensitivity to light and astigmatism. Constantly rubbing your eyes with hands full of invisible germs may also increase your chances of getting an eye infection such as conjunctivitis.5
Smoking does us more harm than good. The negative impacts of smoking on health are numerous, and it is no exception for the eyes. Numbers of studies have linked smoking to the risks of age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, and cataract.6 The harmful oxidants present in cigarette smoke promotes the generation of free radicals by reducing the antioxidants in the blood circulation and eye tissues that help to fight against oxidative stress.6
5. Not eating a healthy and balanced diet
High intake of fat, sugar and processed foods are known to generate harmful molecules that can lead to oxidative stress on the body tissues, including the eyes. If your dietary pattern is towards high intakes of red meat, saturated fats, processed foods, sweets, desserts, and sugar-sweetened beverages, your risks of early age-related macular degeneration are likely higher than those with dietary pattern more on vegetables, legumes, fruit, whole grains, tomatoes, and seafood, as suggested by the study.7
Supplements For The Eyes
Get rid of the bad habits might sound difficult for some (especially on reducing the screen time!). To optimize eye health, you may consider taking supplements that will promote overall eye health. Check out the below ingredients and the clinical evidence on how it can reduce your risks of developing eye diseases.
Besides providing abundant vitamins and minerals, tomato is also a good source of antioxidant, mainly from the carotenoids. The major carotenoids found in tomato are lycopene (about 90%), β-carotene (5 – 10%), and lutein (1 – 5%).8 These active components are potent antioxidants that present in human eye tissues and believed to play an important role in the prevention of age-related macular degeneration, cataracts and other eye diseases.9
Goji berry is also commonly known as wolfberry. It has a bright orange-red appearance and a sweet and tangy flavour which makes it a popular food ingredient to use in many cuisines, especially in Asian countries. It is known as a food for the eyes due to its remarkable nutrients including bioactive compounds such as polysaccharide, carotenoids (zeaxanthin) and flavonoids. These highly antioxidative compounds are found to be effective in alleviates dry eyes symptoms and improves overall eye health after supplementation for some time.10,11
Proanthocyanidins are a group of polyphenols found naturally in plants, fruits or flowers. It is a key active compound that contributes natural red, blue, or purple colours to the plants. The seeds of the grape are especially high in proanthocyanidins. The study revealed that the grape seed proanthocyanidins extract are a more potent antioxidant when compared with Vitamin C and E.12 Through protecting against oxidative stress, grape seed extract has a potential therapeutic effect in preventing cataract, as confirmed by a study.13 In addition, oral supplementation of grape seed proanthocyanidin extract for 1 year has shown to decrease the severity of retinal hard exudates (white deposits located at the outer layers of the retina that are linked to an increased risk of visual loss) in patients with non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy as compared to those who did not take the supplement.14
Ginkgo biloba extract contains bioactive compounds such as flavonoids and terpenoids that help to protect against free radical damage and improve blood circulation by dilating the blood vessels. Thus, it is widely used to prevent heart health issues and improve brain function. Similarly, ginkgo biloba extract is also a promising supplement to support eye health, especially in the prevention of glaucoma, mainly through improving the ocular blood flow.15,16 A study demonstrated that supplementing ginkgo biloba extract for six months is beneficial to patients with dry macular degenerations due to ageing by improving their visual acuity.17
Bilberry is rich in anthocyanin, a natural and active compound that gives the plant a red, purple, or blue colour. It is also a potent antioxidant with numbers of reported health benefits in promoting overall eye health. One of the studies reported that supplementation of bilberry extract for 8 weeks can improve eye fatigue, eye heaviness and uncomfortable sensation caused by the use of the computer.18 Another 2-year follow-up study showed that anthocyanins from bilberry extract can slow the progression of nearsightedness in children with severe nearsightedness.19 Besides, combining anthocyanins and ginkgo biloba extract is also found to be promising in improving the visual function in those with normal-tension glaucoma.20
Astaxanthin is a carotenoid pigment found in certain algae and contributed a red-orange colour to aquatic species such as shrimp, crab, salmon and crayfish. It has a unique molecular structure as compared to other types of carotenoids, such as lutein and zeaxanthin and β-carotene, which makes it a more potent antioxidant. The study reviews on astaxanthin in improving overall well-being is extensive. On the eyes health, astaxanthin may help to reduce or stop the progression of age-related macular degeneration through its protective effect against oxidative stress.21 Astaxanthin may also benefits diabetic retinopathy (an eye condition that occurs due to high blood sugar levels) patients as it helps to protect nerve cells from damages and reduce inflammation.22
Ascorbic acid and ascorbate are the other names of Vitamin C. It is an antioxidant that can be found in the eyes and acts as a “sunscreen” to protect the eyes from UV light.23 The vitamin C works together with the other antioxidants in the eyes to reduce oxidative damages. As ageing tends to deplete the vitamin C levels, intake of foods rich in vitamin C and supplementation can be beneficial for your eyes. A study conducted in India involving 5,638 people aged 60 years and above found that high levels of cataract in India are associated with a lower intake of dietary vitamin C.24 On the other hand, another study also showed that supplementing vitamin C for the long term may reduce the risks of developing cataract.25
Choosing supplements for the eyes is more like a preventive approach towards common eye disorders, as a majority of the eye supplements work by acting as an antioxidant to prevent further damages from oxidation. Hence, regular eye health check (especially for the elderly) and lifestyle changes together with supplementation are the ways to optimize overall eye health.
- Muller J. Daily time spent using online media in Malaysia 2020 by activity [Internet]. Statista; 2021 [updated 2021; cited 2021 Apr 24]. Available from: https://www.statista.com/statistics/803614/daily-time-spent-using-online-media-by-activity-malaysia/#:~:text=As%20of%20the%20third%20quarter,on%20social%20media%20every%20day.
- Wu F, Wu S, Gui Q, Tang K, Xu Q, Tao Y, et al. Blue light insertion at night is involved in sleep and arousal-promoting response delays and depressive-like emotion in mice. Biosci Rep. 2021;41(3):BSR20204033.
- Van Kuijk F. Effects of ultraviolet light on the eye: role of protective glasses. Environmental Health Perspectives. 1991;96:177-184.
- Najmi H, Mobarki Y, Mania K, Altowairqi B, Basehi M, Mahfouz MS, et al. The correlation between keratoconus and eye rubbing: a review. International Journal of Ophthalmology. 2019;12(11):1775-1781.
- Greiner JV, Peace DG, Baird RS, Allansmith MR. Effects of eye rubbing on the conjunctiva as a model of ocular inflammation. Am J Ophthalmol. 1985;100(1):45-50.
- Cheng AC, Pang CP, Leung AT, Chua JK, Fan DS, Lam DS. The association between cigarette smoking and ocular diseases. Hong Kong Med J. 2000;6(2):195-202.
- Chiu CJ, Chang ML, Zhang FF, Li T, Gensler G, Schleicher M, et al. The relationship of major American dietary patterns to age-related macular degeneration. Am J Ophthalmol. 2014;158(1):118-127.e1.
- Ronen G, Cohen M, Zamir D, Hirschberg J. Regulation of carotenoid biosynthesis during tomato fruit development: expression of the gene for lycopene epsilon-cyclase is down-regulated during ripening and is elevated in the mutant Delta. Plant Journal. 1999:17; 341–351.
- Khachik F, Carvalho L, Bernstein PS, Muir GJ, Zhao DY, Katz NB. Chemistry, distribution, and metabolism of tomato carotenoids and their impact on human health. Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2002;227(10):845-851.
- Chien KJ, Horng CT, Huang YS, Hsieh YH, Wang CJ, Yang JS, et al. Effects of lyceum barbarum (goji berry) on dry eye disease in rats. Molecular Medicine Reports. 2018;17:809-818.
- Bucheli P, Vidal K, Shen L, Gu Z, Zhang C, Miller LE, et al. Goji berry effects on macular characteristics and plasma antioxidant levels. Vis. Sci. 2011;88(2):257-262.
- Bagchi D, Garg A, Krohn RL, Bagchi M, Tran MX, Stohs SJ. Oxygen free radical scavenging abilities of vitamins C and E, and a grape seed proanthocyanidin extract in vitro. Res Commun Mol Pathol Pharmacol. 1997;95(2):179-189.
- Jia Z, Song Z, Zhao Y, Wang X, Liu P. Grape seed proanthocyanidin extract protects human lens epithelial cells from oxidative stress via reducing NF-κB and MAPK protein expression. Molecular Vision. 2011;17:210-217.
- Moon SW, Shin YU, Cho H, Bae SH, Kim HK. Effect of grape seed proanthocyanidin extract on hard exudates in patients with non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy. Medicine (Baltimore). 2019;98(21):e15515.
- Chung HS, Harris A, Kristinsson JK, Ciulla TA, Kagemann C, Ritch R. Ginkgo biloba extract increases ocular blood flow velocity. J Ocul Pharmacol Ther. 1999;15(3):233-240.
- Park JW, Kwon HJ, Chung WS, Kim CY, Seong GJ.Short-term effects of ginkgo biloba extract on peripapillary retinal blood flow in normal tension glaucoma. Korean J Ophthalmol. 2011;25(5):323-328.
- Fies P, Angelika D. Ginkgo extract in impaired vision – treatment with special extract EGb 761 of impaired vision due to dry senile macular degeneration. Wien Med Wochenschr. 2002;152(15-16):423-426.
- Ozawa Y, Kawashima M, Inoue S, Inagaki E, Suzuki A, Ooe E, et al. Bilberry extract supplementation for preventing eye fatigue in video display terminal workers. J Nutr Health Aging. 2015;19(5):548-554.
- Omar IAN. Effect of bilberry extract on slowing high-myopia progression in children: 2-year follow-up study. Clin Ophthalmol. 2018;12:2572-2579.
- Shim SH, Kim JM, Choi CY, Kim CY, Park KH. Ginkgo biloba extract and bilberry anthocyanins improve visual function in patients with normal tension glaucoma. J Med Food. 2012;15(9):818-823.
- Yigit M, Gunes A, Uguz C, Yalcin TO, Tok L, Oz A, et al. Effects of astaxanthin on antioxidant parameters in ARPE-19 cells on oxidative stress model. Int J Ophthalmol. 2019;12(6):930-935.
- Yeh PT, Huang HW, Yang CM, Yang WS, Yang CH. Astaxanthin inhibits expression of retinal oxidative stress and inflammatory mediators in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats. PLoS One. 2016;11(1):e0146438.
- Lim JC, Arredondo MC, Braakhuis AJ, Donaldson PJ. Vitamin c and the lens: new insights into delaying the onset of cataract. Nutrients. 2020;12(10):3142.
- Ravindran RD, Vashist P, Gupta SK, Young IS, Maraini G, Camparini M, et al. Inverse association of vitamin c with cataract in older people in India. Ophthalmology. 2011;118(10):1958-1965.e2.
- Jacques P, Taylor A, Hankinson SE, Willett WC, Mahnken B, Lee Y, et al. Long-term vitamin c supplement use and prevalence of early aged-related lens opacities. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1997;66(4):911-916.