Whenever I have an eye test – be it during the tedious process of renewing my drivers’ licence or in an optometrist’s rooms – the automatic replay switch in my head flicks on and I hear a voice from my childhood booming “ze uzzer eye”. Whoever’s conducting the visual acuity test must wonder what’s going through my brain!
It’s probably one of those “you had to be there” things, but try to picture the scene: a small-town Eastern Cape school; an itinerate school nurse who inspired shockwaves of terror, like a distorted Mexican wave moving from one classroom to the next as we were called to line up outside the sick bay.
We had to stand like regimented soldiers while she paraded up and down in disapproving silence. Then the dreaded moment when we had to brave the cold, institutional room one at a time … I pitied the poor kids whose surnames started with A; the rest of us collapsed into stifled giggles to ease the strain while we waited. But the thing that always made us jump, no matter how we prepared ourselves for it, was her staccato German-accented command “ze uzzer eye” – just as you were squinting at that tiny letter that could be a P, or maybe a B.
Although she had me quaking in my shiny Bata Toughees, I am grateful to that school nurse for teaching me the importance of taking care of my eyes.
Here are the basics:
• Have your eyes tested every two years – for visual acuity and eye diseases. If you already have eye-related medical conditions such as glaucoma, cataracts or macular degeneration, your optometrist should decide how often you need to be examined.
• If you have diabetes, visit an eye health professional frequently to ensure any complications of the disease are detected early – they can lead to blindness.
• Have annual check-ups if you wear contact lenses.
Feast your eyes
Optometrist Anel Trollip of McKenna & Scott, Rondebosch, Cape Town, recommends plenty of vitamins A, C and E. “Antioxidants can help to prevent macular degeneration and cataracts,” she says. However, smokers beware – most vitamin A supplements increase your risk of developing cancer. Find out which brand is safe. Carrots are a rich source of beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A. But get your daily dose from a variety of sources – dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, as well as orange-colored fruits and vegetables such as peaches, apricots, sweet potatoes and pumpkins.