Eye Health: 11 Tips for Healthy Eyesight

Take Care with Screen Time

Take regular 20 second breaks when you are on the computer.

Looking at computer, tablet, TV, and smartphone screens may make your eyes tired and cause eyestrain. Blue light from screens may also damage your eyes. Follow the 20-20-20 rule when logging screen time. This means for every 20 minutes you look at device screen, you should gaze at something that is at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. Use good ergonomics when you are on the computer. Make sure that the screen is at eye level or slightly lower. Sit so you are at approximately 25 inches away from the screen. Make sure you have adequate lighting when you are on the computer. Screen filters are available to minimize glare.

Protect Your Eyes from the Sun

Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes, even on cloudy days.

You know that ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun can burn your skin, but did you know they can also harm your eyes? Potential eye health problems that result from excessive UV sun exposure include cornea burns, cataracts, and macular degeneration. You may even develop skin cancer on the eyelids. Always wear sunglasses that block 99% to 100% of UVA and UVB ray when you are outside, even on cloudy days. Effective sunglasses do not have to be expensive. Read the label to see the level of protection against UV exposure that they offer. Remember that certain things reflect UV rays including concrete, sand, snow, and water. You can also rely on wide-brimmed hats and umbrellas to shield your eyes from harmful UV rays.

Guard Your Eyes at Work and at Home

Wear safety glasses to protect your eyes.

Eye injuries are common at home and on the job. Every day in the U.S., approximately 2,000 people injure their eyes at work and require medical treatment. Experts estimate that more than 90% of eye injuries may be prevented if people wore adequate eye protection. Wear safety glasses when you are working on projects at work or at home that may send debris airborne and into your eyes. Wear protective glasses or goggles when playing sports that put your eyes at risk like lacrosse, baseball, softball, basketball, and racket sports. Polycarbonate lenses offer maximum protection because they are more resistant to impact than other materials.

Nourish Your Eyes

Eat foods to improve your sight.
The same foods that are protective of blood vessels in your heart are also good for those in your eyes. Eat plenty of whole foods including grains, dark leafy greens, and citrus fruits. Nutrients like zinc, beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin are especially protective for your eyesight. They help ward off age-related macular degeneration (AMD) or slow its progression if you already have it. Zinc-rich foods include oysters, poultry, and lean meat. Vegetarian sources of zinc include beans, peanuts, and peas. Beta-carotene is found in brightly-colored yellow and orange fruits and vegetables. Your body turns into vitamin A that benefits eyesight. Lutein and zeaxanthin are found in leafy greens like kale, spinach, and collard greens. Lower amounts of these nutrients are found in corn, green peas, broccoli, romaine lettuce, and eggs. Ask your eye doctor whether you would benefit from taking a daily vitamin and mineral supplement formulated to protect eye health.

Tend to Your Eyes

Practice good eye care.

Do not suffer if you have eye problems. It you suffer from red, itchy eyes, reach for antihistamines or soothing eyedrops. Apply cold compresses over your eyes to reduce symptoms. Remove dust or dirt from your eyes by rinsing them with clean water or a saline solution formulated for the eyes. See your ophthalmologist right away if you develop potentially serious problems like eye pain, swelling, secretions, or unusual sensitivity to light. If you develop vision problems like flashes of light, dark floating spots, partial vision loss, blindness, or other problems with your eyesight, see your eye doctor right away.

Practice Proper Contact Lens Care

Clean your contact lenses to protect your vision.

Protect your eyesight by taking good care of your contact lenses. Wash your hands thoroughly before taking contact lenses in or out. Only use lens cleaner and drops that are recommended by your ophthalmologist or optometrist. Wash and dry your case after every use. Replace the case at least every 2 to 3 months. Remove your contact lenses before you go swimming. Take your lenses out before you go to sleep at night. Do not wear lenses longer than is recommended. Follow the lens replacement schedule that is recommended by your ophthalmologist or optometrist.

Watch Out for Other Health Conditions

Diabetes, high blood pressure, and other conditions can affect your eyesight.

Health conditions not normally associated with the eyes can affect vision. Diabetes and high blood pressure can cause changes in blood vessels that diminishes blood flow to the eyes. This, in turn, may cause vision to deteriorate. Diabetic retinopathy is a common cause of vision loss. Autoimmune diseases including lupus, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and Graves' disease may affect the eyes. Other conditions that can affect the eyes include aneurysms, cancer, lung disease, and thyroid disease. Make sure your eye doctor knows your current and past health history as well as your family history of eye diseases and other serious conditions. Schedule eye exams regularly to detect and address any changes in your eyesight as soon as possible.

Monitor Medication Side Effects

Medications for other conditions may affect vision.

Beta blockers, diuretics, antiarrhythmics, statins, antipsychotics, antidepressants, steroids, pain medications, antihistamines, sleep aids, and many other medications can affect your vision. Pay attention to how you feel if your doctor prescribes medication for you. Be aware of any potential side effects and report them immediately to your doctor. Visual distortion and eye symptoms from medications may range from mild to severe. Side effects of medication may include dry eyes, watery eyes, sensitivity to light, blurry vision, double vision, eye puffiness, and droopy eyelids.

Beware of Eye Makeup

Throw out eye makeup every 3 months to avoid eye infections.

Liquid and creamy eye makeup may harbor bacteria. Toss out eye makeup and mascara every 3 months. If you get an eye infection, immediately throw away all of your eye makeup and make an appointment with your eye doctor. Do not share makeup with others and steer clear of store samples. If you have allergies, choose hypoallergenic products and be careful when you use new products. Try one new product at a time so you can easily monitor for potential allergic reactions. Thoroughly cleanse and dry your skin before applying makeup. Take your makeup off and wash your face before going to sleep at night.

Schedule Regular Eye Exams

Regular eye exams can detect eye problems early.

If you want good eyesight and healthy eyes, see your eye doctor regularly for an eye exam. Even people who do not wear eyeglasses should get their eyes and vision checked regularly. Most people need an eye exam at least every other year between the ages of 18 and 60. People over the age of 60 and those who wear contact lenses or who have medical conditions that may affect the eyes -- including high blood pressure, diabetes, or a family or personal history of eye disease -- should have an eye exam annually. Eye exams can detect problems like farsightedness, presbyopia, astigmatism, glaucoma, and macular degeneration. The doctor can examine your retina, macula, and other parts of your eyes. The doctor will also assess your sight during the exam.

Quit Smoking

Smoking increases your risk of eye disease.

Smoking increases the risk of eye diseases including cataracts, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), dry eyes, uveitis, and diabetic retinopathy. Smoking contributes to blood vessel damage that may lead to plaque buildup and weak arteries. This increases the risk of heart attack and damage to the retina. This, in turn, may lead to vision loss. When you quit smoking, the risk of eye disease decreases and is essentially the same as the risk of eye disease for non-smokers. Ask your doctor if you need help quitting.

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REFERENCES:

  • American Academy of Ophthalmology: "Diet and Nutrition," "Smoking and Eye Disease."
  • American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus: "Difference Between and Ophthalmologist, Optometrist and Optician," "What You Need to Know About Contact Lens Hygiene & Compliance."
  • American Family Physician: "Ocular Manifestations of Autoimmune Disease."
  • American Optometric Association: "Computer Vision Syndrome," "Protecting Your Eyes at Work."
  • FDA: "Eye Cosmetic Safety."
  • Journal of Behavioral Optometry: "Ocular & Visual Side Effects of Systemic Drugs."
  • National Eye Institute: "Facts About Diabetic Eye Disease," "Information for Healthy Vision," "Keeping Your Eyes Healthy: Wear Sunglasses."
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