Eye on Health
We often take what we can see for granted, but we shouldn’t take seeing for granted. The entire month of January is Glaucoma Awareness Month. Unlike many diseases, glaucoma doesn’t have early symptoms like blurriness or pain and it is the leading cause of vision loss and blindness.
So, it’s a good time to revisit a few ways to keep our eyes healthy.
Get your eyes checked. An eye doctor can evaluate your vision, prescribe corrective lenses, and check for diseases. A comprehensive eye exam that includes dilating the eyes with drops is the only way to determine if glaucoma is present. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends having a complete eye exam by the age 40 if you are healthy and haven’t had vision problems. People over 60 should have their eyes checked every year or two. Of course, if you wear corrective lenses, have a chronic disease, or take medicines that may impact your vision, you may need to have your eyes examined more frequently. Your doctor can tell you how often to schedule exams.
Know your family’s eye health history. Some diseases and vision conditions can be inherited. For example, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration can run in the family. Take time to learn about any relatives’ eye issues and diagnosis. This information can help you and your doctor assess risk and determine which tests might be needed.
Eat healthy. Everyone knows that carrots are good for your eyesight. Add in some dark leafy greens, like spinach, kale, or collard greens, which have vitamins that can lower long-term eye diseases risk, including cataracts. Research has also shown that eating fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, including salmon, tuna, and halibut, benefits eye health. Eating healthy also means keeping blood sugars in check; 90% of blindness caused by diabetes is preventable.
Protect your eyes. Whether from the sun or activity, eyes need protecting. Wear your coolest pair of sunglasses to shield your eyes from the sun’s ultraviolet rays; the shades should block out 99 to 100% of both UV-A and UV-B radiation to be effective. Safety glasses, goggles, shields and eye guards are important for sports, work, and other activities. They can defend your eyes from dust, fumes, and impacts that could do damage while letting you see clearly. Most eye gear is created based on a specific activity, so research the correct equipment or ask your eye doctor.
Give them a break. Many of us spend hours in front of a computer screen or focused upon one thing. Eyes need a break, too, as they can get fatigued. A good rule of thumb is to employ the 20-20-20 approach. Every 20 minutes, look at something about 20 feet away, for at least 20 seconds.
There are many additional things we can do for our eyes – from quitting smoking to exercising regularly and ensuring only clean hands touch our eyes. The key is to keep our eye on what’s healthy for our eyes, so they twinkle for years to come.
Sources: CDC; NIH, Mayo Clinic; WebMD.