When you live in Spain, it’s important to take extra precautions to keep your eyes healthy. For expats, sunlight, sand and sea can all take their toll on your eyes — even triggering an underlying eye condition.
This year, Specsavers Santa Ponca celebrated its 8th anniversary. For the last eight years, the staff have conducted over 28,000 eye tests on expats and locals, referring 1,200 to eye care specialists to treat detected eye conditions.
So, to mark eight years of eye care expertise, store directors Martin Blake and Andres Roman Romero share their top tips for expats to keep their eyes healthy in Spain.
1. Protect your eyes from the sun
It’s important to take extra steps to protect your eyes in sunny places like Spain. Frequent exposure to sunlight and UVB rays can irritate the cornea — the transparent layer forming the front of the eye. If left unprotected, this can lead to a number of serious eye conditions, such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts.
That’s why it's so important to wear sunglasses. For high-quality protection, select sunglasses that comply with UNE-EN 1836:2006 + A1:2008 or bear the CE kite mark and contain UV 400 lenses. Just ask your optician or a store assistant for more information.
2. Keep diabetes under control
If you suffer from diabetes, you could be at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. This condition occurs when the blood vessels in the retina are damaged by the changes in blood sugar levels, leading to blurry vision which comes and goes throughout the day. If left untreated, the condition can become more serious, and could cause partial or permanent vision loss. As such, it is important to keep an eye on your blood sugar level, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
3. Quit smoking
Not everyone will realise that smoking can increase your risk of eye disease and visual impairment.1 Tobacco smoke is made up of as many as 4,000 active compounds, most toxic and potentially damaging to the eyes. Smoking can also trigger or worsen certain eye conditions, such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD). So if you’re a smoker, quitting or cutting down on cigarettes could halt or possibly reverse damage to the eyes, depending on the condition.
4. Eat an antioxidant-rich diet
Eating a healthy, Mediterranean diet rich in antioxidants has been found to encourage good eyesight and help reduce the risk of macular degeneration.2 The macula is the part of the retina that enables our most acute and detailed vision for tasks such as reading, driving and recognising faces. It has been proven that eating a diet rich in antioxidants, especially carotenoids, is particularly beneficial.
Luckily, most Mediterranean dishes in Spain are rich in these nutrients, including foods like carrots, dark green leafy vegetables, peppers, citrus fruits, oily fish and nuts.
5. Keep contact lenses clean
Seawater and heat can make your eyes dry and irritated. If you use contact lenses, make sure you keep them really clean to avoid any infections. Daily disposable lenses are fresh every day, so they are the most hygienic and convenient choice. If you are using monthly lenses, make sure you use sterile solution to keep them clean and avoid using tap water as it may contain harmful bacteria.
6. Take extra care if you’re over 70
Although opticians recommend an eye test every two years from the age of three, we recommend getting checked annually if you’re over the age of 70. Older eyes may be more susceptible to diseases such as glaucoma, macular degeneration and cataracts which can be detected during a routine eye test. If caught early enough, further damage from these conditions could be prevented.
7. Book an eye test
Many eye conditions develop slowly, often only showing symptoms in their later stages. As such, it’s important to have a check-up with your optometrist every two years, or as soon as you notice a change in your vision.
Optometrists are trained to look out for eye-related diseases as well as other medical conditions, and can refer you for further examination if necessary.
At Specsavers Opticas, we offer a fully comprehensive experience for British expats, providing the same quality service you’d expect in the UK.
- Xinzhi Zhang, Jennifer Kahende, Amy Z. Fan, Yan Li, Lawrence Barker, Theodore J. Thompson, Smoking and Visual Impairment Among Older Adults With Age-Related Eye Diseases, 2011 Jul; 8(4): A84. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3136979
- Chapman NA, Jacobs RJ, Braakhuis AJ, Role of diet and food intake in age-related macular degeneration: a systematic review, 2019 Jan, 47(1):106-127. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29927057