During March, which is National Save Your Vision Month, it’s a good time to explore a few important parts of healthy eyes. However, the seven simple tips we’ll go over below are important to think about all year long, not just during the month of March.
1. Eat healthy. While many people might have heard the saying that carrots are good for their eyes, eating healthier and adding more fruits and vegetables in general to your diet may help your overall eye health. A healthier diet often helps to prevent conditions such as type-2 diabetes and high blood pressure, which can both lead to eye problems. Visit https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/aha-diet-and-lifestyle-recommendations for more tips on healthy eating.
2. Don’t smoke. Smoking increases your risk of many diseases and illnesses, and may increase your risk of developing cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. For healthy eyes, smoking is not a good idea. Visit https://www.cancer.org/latest-news/how-to-quit-smoking.html for tips on how to quit.
3. Protect your eyes. While we know it’s a good idea to wear sunscreen when we’re going to be exposed to UV rays outside, we may not think to shield our eyes from these harmful UV rays. This step is very important though, as UV rays may increase your risk for cataracts. Look for sunglasses that block 100% of UVA and UVB rays. Also, if working with power tools or harsh chemicals, wear safety eyewear to protect your eyes from injury.
4. Limit screen time. All the time we spend on our phones and computers these days can also be taxing on our eyes, often contributing to eye strain and causing them to dry out. While it may be hard to limit your screen time if you use a computer regularly for work, there are a few things you can do to help. Make sure to wear appropriate correction (glasses or contact lenses) to keep your screen in focus—for adults over 40-45 years of age this may mean using reading or computer glasses with the focus set for the distance at which you work. Consider taking a break from staring at your screen every 15-20 minutes and make a conscious effort to blink from time to time to help keep your eyes lubricated. Using artificial tears occasionally or running a humidifier near your office space may help to alleviate dry eyes as well.
5. Practice proper contact lens care. If you wear contact lenses, it’s very important to care for them properly. You may think it’s no big deal to fall asleep with your contacts in when you’re just too tired to take them out one night, but this can potentially lead to a serious corneal infection that can scar your eye and cause decreased vision, not to mention the common irritated, red eyes you may wake up with the next morning.
6. Get active and spend time outdoors. Being physically active can help you stay healthy and lower your risk of type 2 diabetes and hypertension, two conditions which can potentially damage your eyes and lead to loss of vision over time. Spending time outdoors focusing at a distance rather than on phones, tablets and computers, may also lessen the risk of near-sightedness.
7. Know your family’s eye history and get your eyes checked. Talk with family members to learn if they have any eye conditions. Some eye diseases, such as glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration, tend to run in families and may be asymptomatic in the early stages. Even if you don’t wear glasses or contacts, you should still have regular eye exams. Eye exams are an opportunity for your doctor to notice changes in vision or the early stages of a disease. The National Institutes of Health recommends an eye exam every five to ten years for people between the ages of 20 and 39, every two to four years if you are over age 40, and once a year if over age 60-65. If you have a family history of glaucoma, or are in a group at higher risk for glaucoma (such as African Americans), a dilated eye exam every 1-2 years after age 40 is recommended. If you wear contact lenses, an annual eye exam is recommended. If you have a known eye disease, your eye doctor will determine the appropriate frequency of exams.
To request an appointment with one of the providers at Tift Regional Ophthalmology, call 229-386-2181.