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Vision loss describes any reduction in the ability to see between being fully sighted and being blind. Blindness describes a total loss of sight (cannot see anything including light). Vision loss and blindness can occur at any age but it is most common in older people. Babies can be born with eye problems that cause vision loss and blindness.
There are several risk factors associated with developing vision loss and blindness. Getting older is a major risk factor. Some risk factors are related to lifestyle and can be addressed to help prevent vision loss and blindness and keep eyes healthy. Eye problems associated with lifestyle are:
Cigarettes contain many chemicals that are harmful to the body. When a person smokes they breathe in these chemicals which enter the blood stream and can damage the blood vessels that carry blood throughout the body. The blood vessels in the eye are very small and can be damaged easily by these chemicals, possible affecting sight. Stopping smoking or better still not starting, is one of the easiest and best things a person can do to protect their vision. (Visit CEITEC for more information about the effects of tobacco use on health http://www.ceitc.org.au/)
Eyes can be damaged by the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays if they are exposed too often and for too long. In particular, damage from the sun can increase a person’s likelihood of developing cataracts (cloudy cover over the eye). The best ways to prevent eye damage from the sun are to wear sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat. Children whose eyes are particularly sensitive to sun damage.
Injuries to the eye (ocular trauma) are more common among Indigenous people than non-Indigenous people. Injuries to the eye are also a risk factor for developing cataract.
The eyes, like all other organs of the body, depend upon nutrients from food to maintain their health and proper function. Good nutrition helps our eyes repair wear and tear, protect against infection, function properly, and grow (in children). A healthy diet for optimal eye heath contains plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, wholegrain bread and rice, dairy products, fish, eggs and nuts, and not very much salty and sugary food like fast food and soft drink.
There are a number of problems that can affect the eye. The most common eye conditions for Indigenous people are:
The eye health of Indigenous people before non-Indigenous people came to Australia was probably very good; believed to be better than that of non-Indigenous people. Indigenous children are less likely to have vision loss and blindness than other Australian children, however Indigenous adults are three times more likely to have low vision and six times more likely to be blind than non-Indigenous adults.
Vision loss and blindness can affect a person’s ability to perform everyday activities such as reading, watching television, playing sports, driving and their ability to attend school or work. It can also increase a person’s risk of falls and injury. It is important to maintain healthy eyes by addressing risk factors and by getting regular eye health check-ups. Even people with no eye problems should visit an eye health professional every two years.
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