Nov 1, 2021


Did you know that 1.2 million Canadians have vision loss? There are also 8 million Canadians who have an eye disease (age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy) that puts them at risk of vision loss. Importantly, three out of four cases of vision loss can be prevented or treated if caught early.

Dr. Sheila Laplante, an Visique/FYidoctors optometrist based in Gatineau, Quebec, offers her professional perspective on how you can protect your eyes as you age, and ultimately prevent vision impairment. In fact, in Dr. Laplante’s practice, vision loss—particularly among aging adults—is a common problem.

“We see patients weekly, if not daily, with macular degeneration, glaucoma, or other eye threatening disease,” she says.

The good news is preventative measures are very simple and we can act by shifting our habits from consuming more leafy greens to avoiding too much sun exposure.

Laplante suggested these 10 key ways to prevent vision loss and blindness:

  1. Book regular eye exams: First and foremost, ensuring you get your eyes checked regularly by a health-care professional is paramount when it comes to preventing vision loss. Laplante says, “early detection is key [because] if we catch disease early enough, there is usually something that can be done.” One point she stressed is that many eye diseases are asymptomatic, which makes it especially critical to get your eyes checked regularly to detect the first signs of problems that would otherwise go unnoticed.
  2. Explore your family history: Understanding your family’s eye health history is essential, as it can serve as a clear indicator of what diseases you might eventually be up against. “Most eye diseases do have a genetic or hereditary component,” Laplante says. As such, “you are more at risk to develop a disease if a family member has had it.” Knowing this information can help you catch the first signs of vision impairment and combat it as quickly and effectively as possible.
  3. Exercise regularly: Generally speaking, exercise is essential for our overall well-being, and that certainly includes our eye health. “If you exercise, you’ll be less at risk for vascular disease which can have severe impairment on your vision,” Laplante says, adding that studies have also shown that physical activity can decrease the risk of glaucoma.
  4. Eat well: Just like exercising regularly, maintaining a nutritious diet will optimize your eye health, thereby reducing the risk of vision impairment. Laplante recommends loading up on leafy greens and dark vegetables, as “those antioxidants make sure your cells aren’t aging prematurely.”
  5. Wear eye protection: As we know, exposure to UV rays can accelerate the aging process of our skin, and the same can be said for the sun’s impact on our eyes. Laplante highly recommends wearing sunglasses. Not only will you look chic while protecting your eyeballs from dangerous rays, but you’ll also be protecting your eyelids, which can be prone to burning. Excessive exposure to UV rays can hasten macular degeneration and cataracts.
  6. Don’t smoke: Not unlike the sun, we’re all well-aware that smoking leads your skin to age prematurely. According to Laplante, “it does the same thing to your eyes.” Smoking will make you more at risk of eye disease spurred by premature aging.
  7. Avoid hazards: This one might go without saying, but Laplante strongly suggests dodging situations that could lead to ocular emergencies. If you find yourself in a potentially dangerous situation—whether you’re doing yard work or working with harsh chemicals—wearing protective eyewear is essential.
  8. Maintain blood sugar levels: Did you know that diabetes is a leading cause of blindness? Well, in 90% of cases, it’s preventable. Diabetic retinopathy can be avoided by keeping your glucose levels controlled to the best of your ability, particularly for those who have Type 2 diabetes.
  9. Rest your eyes: Particularly during the pandemic, Laplante has noticed her patients spend far too much time staring at a screen. Just as we give other muscles and organs in our bodies a break, our eyes need sufficient rest, too. Laplante suggests employing a useful strategy which she calls the “20-20-20 rule:” every 20 minutes, take a 20-second screen break to look 20 feet away. “If you look at the same spot for too long, it could increase the risk of myopia, which can be a cause of ocular disease,” Laplante explained.
  10. Get outside: This prevention method is scientifically proven to work in children, though it applies loosely to all people. Studies show that kids who spend an hour and a half playing outdoors are less likely to develop myopia, which is a risk factor for other diseases leading to vision loss. As we mentioned above, whether you’re a child or not, everyone’s eyes can benefit from spending more time outside—and away from our screens.

So, keep an eye on your eyes, and do what you can to maintain optimal vision health. It’s simpler than you think.

FYidoctors/Visique is a proud partner of Fighting Blindness Canada’s upcoming virtual event – Eye on the Cure – to support sight-saving research and the fight against blindness. Get your tickets for the November 13 event. Watch and vote on the next ground-breaking research project!

If you have questions or concerns about your vision health, book an appointment with your local FYidoctors/Visique today or your current eye care provider.

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