Most of us know that as diabetics the main thing we have to do to look after our eyes is to look after our blood sugars. But beyond being diabetic, like any other human being, there are steps we can take to take good care of our eyes. Here eye care experts Bausch & Lomb reveal what keeps our eyes fit for purpose. It’s well-known that carrots, a rich source of Vitamin A, and green leafy vegetables containing Vitamin C are good for eye health as is oily fish. “What we eat today can affect our health in the longer term,” says Dr Emma Derbyshire, a leading nutritionist and member of the eye care advisory panel WINK. “We all need to be encouraged to value our eyes and how to prevent them from deteriorating by eating a diet rich in nutrients beneficial to the eyes. It is particularly important that the role diet plays in the health of our eyes is discussed. This is especially important today when our eyes are increasingly exposed to technology.”
Tissues of the eye are vulnerable to oxidative stress, a process where there is an imbalance between the production of reactive oxygen species (free radicals) and antioxidant defense systems that are naturally present in the eye. As ageing itself also places demands on these antioxidant systems this can leave tissues of the eye vulnerable to damage as we get older. Subsequently, increasing intakes of nutrients such as vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and E may help to counteract some of these effects.
Laboratory studies have shown that a combination of vitamins C and E can help to prevent corneal endothelial cells undergoing lipid peroxidation, free-radical damage and cell death. This suggests that the combined effects of vitamins C and E could help to prevent corneal cells from ageing, possibly helping to maintain quality of vision. Another study showed that a diet deficient in vitamin E led to increased lipid peroxidation in the retina in addition to accelerated retina damage, particularly with age. This indicates that vitamin E may play a role in retaining the health of the retina; a layer of light-sensitive cells at the back of the eye that are important for sight.
Further research found that vitamin E taken in oral tocopherol form can help to protect against ultraviolet radiation-induced cataract (clouding of the lens leading to impaired vision). This is important given that after the skin, the eye is most vulnerable to sunlight, with the lens playing a key role in absorbing ultra-violet radiation.
Research from the Journal of the American College of Nutrition also reports how the element Zinc is essential for cell metabolism and is present in high levels in eye tissue, especially in the retina and choroid (vascular layer of the eyeball). Several epidemiological studies have looked at associations between zinc intakes and markers of eye health. For example, findings from the Age-Related Eye Disease study (AREDS) found that adults with advanced AMD and cataract receiving zinc supplements (80 mg zinc oxide) over 6.5 years had lower mortality and eye care rates than those not taking zinc.
A growing amount of evidence has also looked at the positive effects of omega-3 fatty acids in relation to eye health. One randomised controlled trial looked at patients suffering from dry eyes. They were asked to take two capsules of omega-3 fatty acids containing 180 mg EPA + 120 mg DHA per capsule for 30 days. They showed reduced rates of tear evaporation, improved tear secretion and significant improvements in dry eye symptoms.
In addition, carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin also have a key role to play in helping to maintain vision, often working in synergy with other eye nutrients. One of their main roles is to scavenge free radicals, helping to support normal vision.
Eating the right diet is obviously important, or you can consider taking supplements, especially if you already have symptoms of dry eyes (very common in people with diabetes). Developed by eye care specialists Bausch + Lomb, the Ocuvite range has specifically designed formulations to help maintain the health of eyes. There are two products in the range which are available from pharmacies and opticians: Ocuvite Complete and Ocuvite Lutein.
A tearful survey
The British are renowned for having a stiff upper lip, a belief which is backed up by a survey by Bausch and Lomb. Of the respondents, 55.7% said that us Brits don’t like to show our emotions. And yet despite this, 60.7% of those surveyed admitted to having cried within the last month, with a fifth (19.5%) of men confessing to having cried within the last week.
We all know that different emotions and conditions can drive us to tears, but have you ever wondered what’s in your tears and how they work? There are three types of tears. Basal tears lubricate the eye and fight bacterial infection. Reflex tears are produced as and when needed to flush out dirt and other irritants such as onion vapours (a huge 85.3% of us admit to crying while chopping onions). Reflex tears can also be triggered by yawning, bright light and eating hot or peppery foods such as a vindaloo curry, something which nearly half (49.3%) of respondents have experienced on at least one occasion. Then there are psychic tears linked to our emotions and physical pain. These tears contain different hormones to the other types of tears, including enkephalin, a natural painkiller.
Despite our tears, many of us experience dry eyes, a problem that increases as we age. More than half (50.6%) of the people in the survey had suffered from dry eyes, with a similar number (49.7%) correctly identifying ageing as one of the key causes.
However, alcohol consumption, laser eye surgery and some medications can also contribute to dry eye syndrome, and women are more likely to get it than men – which could be due in part to fluctuating hormones. On top of this, our modern living means that we are spending more time in air-conditioned spaces, in front of computers or looking at smartphones, all of which can cause dry eyes which comes with symptoms of discomfort, visual disturbance and grittiness. Not having the protective film of tears in your eyes, can affect your quality of life and could, in time, also lead to inflammation and lasting damage to your cornea, so it’s worth doing something about it.
Bausch & Lomb’s Artelac Rebalance drops can help keep your eyes hydrated during the day due to their hyaluronic acid (HA) component. HA stays viscous when your eyes are open and becomes more fluid when you blink, just like natural tears. The drops also contain unique ingredient which works with the HA to strengthen your film of tears without blurring your vision. Artelac Nighttime Gel is a higher viscosity, with three layers of film stability so your eyes stay comfortable all night.
Francesca Marchetti, an optician and advisor to WINK, an independent eye care panel from Bausch + Lomb, says, “The science behind Artelac Nighttime Gel is impressive. A study in the journal Opthalmology reported that carbomer gel used in Artelac Nighttime Gel provided ‘statistically significant improvement’ in symptoms including discomfort, dryness and the sensation of having a foreign body in the eye.”
Artelac Rebalance has an RRP of £6.95; Artelac Nighttime Gel has an RRP of £4.99.
This news item first appeared in Desang Diabetes Magazine, our free-to-receive digital journal. We cover diabetes news, diabetes management equipment (diabetes kit) and news about food suitable for a diabetic diet. Go to the top of this page to sign up – we just need your email address.