After Forty Eye Health

We all expect to get to the stage where our arm isn’t long enough anymore and we will need reading glasses, but unless I am mistaken, nobody actually tells you what else might happen to your eyes as you age.  You may be incredibly lucky, and apart from gaining creases (let’s call them laughter lines) around your eyes, you will just cruise into old age needing no more than a bit of magnification for reading.

But then for some, you might start to experience issues you just hadn’t anticipated.  I personally think that age shows most around the eyes and if you have tired and strained eyes this will show and age you more than a bit of a crepy neck, dark spots on your hands or wrinkly knees.  And tired and strained eyes is my current problem.

I had never experienced any issues with my eyes or my eyesight until I got past the 40 age mark.  In my early forties, I was suddenly hit with eczema around my eyes.  I have never suffered from eczema before so it caught me by surprise.  It was, apparently, caused by stress and I must admit it was a bit of a stressful time.  My eyelids and the skin around my eyes swelled to ridiculous proportions, were very red and itched and burnt like crazy.   I just couldn’t get on top of it and it lingered for quite a few years.  (A top tip if this rings any bells:  try some marigold – aka calendula – ointment that is easily purchased at your local health food store.  It really helps calm the burn.)

When a homeopath finally called an end to the whole sorry saga I was left with very wrinkly skin around the eyes where it had been swollen for so long and I have been on a quest ever since to find an eye product that will actually work on tightening the sag.  I am realistic enough to know that only surgery or perhaps botox will really make a difference, but no, I don’t intend to go under the knife any time soon.

Then, I started to suffer from red and bloodshot eyes that felt a little gunky all the time.  At the same time my eyes started to get tired very easily and if I spent any length of time at my screen or reading then my eyesight went completely blurry.  Luckily, an eye test and a decent pair of glasses with the right prescription resolved the blurry vision but I was still worried enough about my general eye health to see an opthalmologist.

Much to my surprise, I was told that I had dry eyes (that happens with age) as well as mild blepharitis and although I had vaguely heard this word before, I didn’t really know what it meant.  I can enlighten you.  It is an inflammation of the eyelids and is a common eye disorder caused by either bacteria or a skin condition.  This is not an age-related issue, it can affect people of all ages.  The blepharitis secretes an oily substance, which is what makes them feel a bit gunky, and if this gets onto dry eyeballs it can cause irritation and make them look bloodshot.  I have tried many remedies and discovered the best way to treat it with an over-the-counter product called Blephasol that I apply with a cotton bud along the top and bottom lash line.  It is wonderful to get rid of that gunky feeling.

Dry eyes are far more common as you age and are also caused by the menopause – we are told about hot flushes, interrupted sleep and a long list of other potential symptoms but never dry eyes.  The result is basically eyes that are just sore and red.  Spending long spells of time looking at a screen like most of us do exacerbates the problem.  I have tried many, many eye drops – the more natural the better – and I can report that the same company that make the Blephasol I use to treat the blepharitis also make what are for me the best eye drops –  Thealoz Duo .  As they don’t contain any preservatives, you can use them as often as you like and they really do hydrate and soothe .  I also like the night-time gel version which sets to work on hydrating your eyes as you sleep.  You’d think I was being sponsored by them, but trust me I am not.

There are a few supplements that are said to help your general eye health and I have tried cod liver oil (granny’s favourite), bilberry extract and I’m currently giving Gac fruit a go.  I am also looking into ways to take the tension out of the eyes and relax the muscles and I have been told that staring into the dark is a good way to relax them – cup your hands over each eye to try to cut out the light and just stare.  Meditation probably helps but I’m still trying to master that one!

Finally, I think we should really think about how much time we spend staring at a screen and the harm that this can do to our eyes.  The jury seems to be out on whether the blue light emitted from the screens actually harms our eyes (it does penetrate through to the retina) but we probably underestimate how much time we spend in front of a screen.  We start the day checking our mobiles, we might even spend our commute straining to look at the mobile or tablet then if we work in an office we spend almost the whole day staring at a screen (and we blink less when looking at a screen so hello to those dry eyes).  We might spend our lunch break or the evening on a tablet catching up with social media, e-mails or shopping online.  All this causes huge strain on the eyes as the muscles are constantly having to work to focus and this might not present any problems when we are younger, but it certainly catches up with you as you age.  And if you have blue, grey or green eyes then you will find they are more sensitive to light than brown eyes (this goes for the sun and bright office lighting as well) as they have less pigmentation.

Perhaps all this talk of having a digital detox from time to time isn’t such a bad idea.  Maybe we should do it more often than that.  Maybe we should actually do something else in the evenings instead of going online (sorry to all the people I follow on Instagram.  I won’t be seeing so many of your posts!).  I think I am going to try leaving the mobile and tablet in another room in the evening so that I am not tempted.  It’s not going to be easy but I think I should give it a go…..



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