Macular degeneration and eye fatigue
As with the other senses, sight deteriorates with age. For instance, eye fatigue or aesthenopia are common in people performing excessive eye work, and age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) is the second most common cause of blindness in people over 50 years of age in Western countries.
Both disorders affect the vision. In the vision process, light stimuli will be transformed in the retina into electrical impulses, which will be transmitted to the brain via the optic nerve, where they will be processed in the visual cortex. The retina contains two types of nerve cells - rods and cones.
In the central part of the retina, the macula, there is the area of the eye with the highest visual acuity, the fovea, which is made up only by cones. Around it and as we move further away from it, the cones become scarcer and the rods are present. Cones are responsible for photopic vision or colour and details (central vision). Rods are in charge of scotopic vision or black and white vision (peripheral vision).
Eye fatigue is a frequent ophthalmological condition. There are many everyday factors that involve excessive eye work. Among them are professional activities that require high visual attention for long hours, reading without taking breaks, driving long distances, light that is either too bright or insufficient, pollution or environmental dryness caused by cooling systems and heating.
Nowadays one of the main causes of eye fatigue is, without a doubt, the continued and excessive use of digital devices such as mobiles, computers, tablets, video games and television.
Symptoms of eye fatigue
Symptoms of eye fatigue can include a feeling of tightness, pain or itching in the eyes, heaviness of the eyelids, increased need for blinking, mild headaches, blurred or double vision, and even the appearance of dizziness.
How to combat eye fatigue
Eye fatigue is usually a condition without any serious long-term consequences and disappears when you rest your eyes and take measures that avoid or limit the causes that provoke it.
To prevent and combat eye tiredness, it is also essential to sleep well and follow a balanced diet that avoids deficiencies of essential nutrients for eye health such as lutein, zinc or anthocyanins.
In any case, since some symptoms of eye fatigue may be indicative of an eye disease that needs treatment or vision problems, you should visit the doctor if they do not improve or last for an extended period of time.
Essential nutrients for visual function
Normal visual function requires a set of nutrients that must be consumed in sufficient quantities. The lack of some of these nutrients can lead to an increase in retinal degenerative processes such as age-related macular degeneration or other visual disorders. The retina and the macula are subject to the oxidative action of UV radiation and over the years the effectiveness of the body's natural antioxidant defence system can become reduced, increasing the production of harmful free radicals.
A balanced diet must provide the necessary nutrients required by our body. In some situations there may be an increased requirement of some of these nutrients.
Omega-3 fatty acids, such as DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), carotenoids, such as lutein and zeaxanthin, some vitamins, such as vitamin C, E, B6, B12, and folic acid, and trace elements such as zinc, among other nutrients, have an important role in maintaining visual function.