Your eyes are an important part of your health. Most people rely on their eyes to see and make sense of the world around them. But some eye diseases can lead to vision loss, so it is important to identify and treat eye diseases as early as possible. You should get your eyes checked as often as your health care provider recommends it, or if you have any new vision problems. And just as it is important to keep your body healthy, you also need to keep your eyes healthy.
Don’t take your eyes for granted. Take these easy steps to keep your peepers healthy.
1. Eat Well
Good eye health starts with the food on your plate. Nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, lutein, zinc, and vitamins C and E might help ward off age-related vision problems like macular degeneration and cataracts. To get them, fill your plate with:
- Green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, and collards
- Salmon, tuna, and other oily fish
- Eggs, nuts, beans, and other nonmeat protein sources
- Oranges and other citrus fruits or juices
- Oysters and pork
A well-balanced diet also helps you stay at a healthy weight. That lowers your odds of obesity and related diseases like type 2 diabetes, which is the leading cause of blindness in adults.
2. Quit Smoking
It makes you more likely to get cataracts, damage to your optic nerve, and macular degeneration, among many other medical problems. If you’ve tried to kick the habit before only to start again, keep at it. The more times you try to quit, the more likely you are to succeed. Ask your doctor for help.
3. Wear Sunglasses
The right pair of shades will help protect your eyes from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. Too much UV exposure boosts your chances of cataracts and macular degeneration.
Choose a pair that blocks 99% to 100% of UVA and UVB rays. Wraparound lenses help protect your eyes from the side. Polarized lenses reduce glare while you drive.
If you wear contact lenses, some offer UV protection. It’s still a good idea to wear sunglasses for an extra layer.
4. Use Safety Eyewear
If you use hazardous or airborne materials on the job or at home, wear safety glasses or protective goggles.
Sports like ice hockey, racquetball, and lacrosse can also lead to eye injury. Wear eye protection. Helmets with protective face masks or sports goggles with polycarbonate lenses will shield your eyes.
5. Look Away From the Computer Screen
Staring at a computer or phone screen for too long can cause:
- Blurry vision
- Trouble focusing at a distance
- Dry eyes
- Neck, back, and shoulder pain
- Make sure your glasses or contacts prescription is up to date and good for looking at a computer screen.
- If your eye strain won’t go away, talk to your doctor about computer glasses.
- Move the screen so your eyes are level with the top of the monitor. That lets you look slightly down at the screen.
- Try to avoid glare from windows and lights. Use an anti-glare screen if needed.
- Choose a comfortable, supportive chair. Position it so that your feet are flat on the floor.
- If your eyes are dry, blink more.
- Rest your eyes every 20 minutes. Look 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Get up at least every 2 hours and take a 15-minute break.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet. Your diet should include plenty or fruits and vegetables, especially deep yellow and green leafy vegetables. Eating fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, tuna, and halibut can also help your eyes.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or having obesity increases your risk of developing diabetes. Having diabetes puts you at higher risk of getting diabetic retinopathy or glaucoma.
- Get regular exercise. Exercise may help to prevent or control diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. These diseases can lead to some eye or vision problems. So if you exercise regularly, you can lower your risk of getting these eye and vision problems.
- Wear sunglasses. Sun exposure can damage your eyes and raise your risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Protect your eyes by using sunglasses that block out 99 to 100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B radiation.
- Wear protective eyewear. To prevent eye injuries, you need eye protection when playing certain sports, working in jobs such as factory work and construction, and doing repairs or projects in your home.
- Avoid smoking. Smoking increases the risk of developing age-related eye diseases such as macular degeneration and cataracts and can damage the optic nerve.
- Know your family medical history. Some eye diseases are inherited, so it is important to find out whether anyone in your family has had them. This can help you determine if you are at higher risk of developing an eye disease.
- Know your other risk factors. As you get older, you are at higher risk of developing age-related eye diseases and conditions. It is important to know you risk factors because you may be able to lower your risk by changing some behaviors.
- If you wear contacts, take steps to prevent eye infections. Wash your hands well before you put in or take out your contact lenses. Also follow the instructions on how to properly clean them, and replace them when needed.
- Give your eyes a rest. If you spend a lot of time using a computer, you can forget to blink your eyes and your eyes can get tired. To reduce eyestrain, try the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, look away about 20 feet in front of you for 20 seconds.
- A visual field test to measure your side (peripheral) vision. A loss of peripheral vision may be a sign of glaucoma.
- A visual acuity test, where you read an eye chart about 20 feet away, to check on how well you see at various distances
- Tonometry, which measures your eye’s interior pressure. It helps to detect glaucoma.
- Dilation, which involves getting eye drops that dilate (widen) your pupils. This allows more light to enter the eye. Your eye care provider examines your eyes using a special magnifying lens. This provides a clear view of important tissues at the back of your eye, including the retina, macula, and optic nerve.