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Students urged to focus on eye health

Students are being urged to sit an exam before they even set foot on campus – by undergoing an eye test.

With long hours of studying, boozy nights out and even a quick swipe of borrowed mascara potentially taking their toll on vision, it’s vital that students take steps to protect their eyes.

Yet according to recent research by the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB), more than a quarter of adults haven’t had an eye test in the past two years. 

Mesha Tanna, senior optometrist at Optical Express, said: “Having regular eye examinations should be like going to the dentist – part of your regular health care. Eye tests check more than your sight as they can also detect a number of general health conditions including diabetes, brain tumours and blood pressure.

“Freshers in particular may not be aware of how to go about booking an eye test or the options available to them. In England, free eye tests are available to all 16-18 year-olds in full time education. Optical Express also offers a wider range of discounts to students to encourage young people to look after their eyes.”

Here, Mesha shares her top student eye health tips:

  1. Protect your eyes whilst studying

Focusing intensely on textbooks and computer screens for hours may be a necessary part of university life but it puts students at greater risk of eye-related problems, explained Mesha.

“Research[1] suggests that 90% of people using computers for more than three hours a day are at risk of computer vision syndrome, said Mesha. “The best way of avoiding this is to stop working every 20 minutes and look into the middle distance in order to give your eyes a rest. Blinking regularly will also keep eyes moist.” Corrective glasses that filter out the blue light emitted by computers should be considered during intensive periods of studying.

  1. Get small problems checked out

Students who think they have an eye infection or have suffered an eye injury should also seek advice from an optician, she says. “Infection can be an underlying cause of a corneal ulcer, which resembles an abscess on the eye. If left untreated, a corneal ulcer can lead to severe vision loss. Some serious eye infections can also penetrate the deeper, interior portions of the eye to create sight-threatening conditions such as endophthalmitis. The sooner eye problems are treated, the better.”

  1. Use contact lenses safely

After a night out with friends or following a tiring day at university it can be tempting to fall asleep in contact lenses.

“Sleeping in contact lenses is a big no-no as it significantly increases your risk of eye infection,” said Mesha.  “Contact lens wearers should also bear in mind that some lenses have a time limit to the number of hours they can work.  If you plan to study into the evening and there is a chance you could become too tired and forgetful to remove your lenses, consider switching to contact lenses with increased oxygen permeability.”

  1. Don’t share make-up – even with your BFF

“Sharing cosmetics especially mascara eyeshadow and eyeliner can spread some nasty infections including conjunctivitis and styes,” said Mesha. “And don’t think that because your friend’s eyes are healthy that yours will be safe. Although germs can go unnoticed in one person, they may cause real problems for another. Contact lens wearers are especially vulnerable because bacteria can get trapped behind your lens. 

“It’s also a good idea to wash application brushes regularly to remove bacteria and keep an eye on your make-up’s expiry dates.”

  1. Beware of boozing

“I think most people know that heavy drinking and smoking are bad for you, but what they probably don’t realise is how harmful they are to eye health,” said Mesha. “Heavy alcohol consumption weakens the eye muscles and is associated with optic neuropathy which causes vision loss while smokers double their risk of developing age-related macular degeneration.” According to RNIB, smoking is the number one threat to eye health.

[1] National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety

  • Date published: 14th September 2016