Tips for Healthier Eyes
1. Take a 20-Second Computer Break. Staring at a computer (or any digital screen) won’t hurt your eyes, but it can make them feel tired and dry. Surprisingly, we blink about half as often when we’re looking at a screen. Follow the 20/20/20 rule: Every 20 minutes, look at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. Also, place your screen so it’s about 25 inches away and slightly below eye level. Cut glare by moving light sources or using a screen filter.
2. Always wear Sunglasses. UV radiation can hurt your eyes just like it does your skin. Effects add up and can cause problems like cataracts, cornea burns, and even cancer of the eyelid. Whenever you’re outside -- even on cloudy days -- wear sunglasses or contacts that block 99% to 100% of UV-A and UV-B rays. Protective lenses don’t have to be expensive, just check the label. Hats block exposure, too. Snow, water, sand, and concrete all can reflect UV rays.
3. Use Safety Glasses at Work and Play. Nearly half of all eye injuries happen at home, not on a job site. Use safety glasses whenever a project might send debris flying or splash hazardous chemicals. Protective eyewear may prevent 90% of sports-related eye injuries. Lenses should be made of polycarbonate plastic -- which is 10 times more impact resistant than other materials. The sports that cause the most injuries are baseball/softball, racket sports, lacrosse, and basketball.
4. Eat for Your Heart and Your Eyes. Foods that help circulation are good for your heart and vision. Choose heart-healthy foods like citrus fruits, dark leafy greens, and whole grains. Foods rich in zinc -- beans, peas, peanuts, oysters, lean red meat, and poultry -- can help eyes resist light damage. Carrots also help eyesight because of its vitamin A. Other nutrients that help eyes include beta-carotene (found in many yellow or orange fruits and veggies), and lutein and zeaxanthin (found in leafy greens and colorful produce).
5. Don’t Ignore Eye Problems. If your eyes are itchy, red, or gritty, use artificial tears. If symptoms continue or if you have eye pain, secretions, swelling, or sensitivity to light, see a doctor. Other reasons to see a doctor: dark floating spots, flashes of light, or reduced vision.
6. Clean Your Contact Lenses. Take care of your eyes by taking care of your contacts. Always wash your hands before handling lenses. Use only cleaners and drops approved by your eye doctor. Clean, rinse, and dry the case each time you remove the lenses, and replace it every two to three months. Don’t wear lenses when you're swimming or using cleaning products like bleach. Don’t leave daily wear lenses in while you sleep, even for a nap. And don’t wear lenses longer than recommended.
7. Know Your Health History. Many seemingly unrelated health conditions can affect your eyes. High blood pressure and diabetes can reduce blood flow to the eyes. Immune system disorders in the lungs, thyroid glands, or elsewhere can inflame your eyes, too. Other threats include multiple sclerosis, aneurysms, and cancer. Tell your eye doctor about any current or past health issues, including family members with eye problems or serious illnesses.
8. Read Drug Labels. Many types of drugs, or combinations of drugs, can affect your vision. Be on the lookout for possible side effects from various medications used to treat different conditions. Tell your doctor if you notice issues like dry or watery eyes, double vision, light sensitivity, puffy or droopy eyelids, and blurred vision.
9. Throw Away Old Eye Makeup. Bacteria grow easily in liquid or creamy eye makeup. If you develop an infection, immediately get rid of all your eye makeup and see a doctor. If you tend to have allergic reactions, try only one new product at a time. Never share cosmetics and don't use store samples. Clean your face thoroughly before and after using makeup, and don’t apply cosmetics inside lash lines.
10. Get Regular Eye Exams. You should get your eyes checked regularly, even if you don't wear glasses. Ask your doctor how often. It will be at least every other year from ages 18-60, or every year if you're older, wear contact lenses, or have risk factors like diabetes, high blood pressure, or a family history of eye disease.
11. Stop Smoking. If you smoke, stop. Smoking raises your risk of developing cataracts and aggravates uncomfortable dry eyes. It also builds up plaque in your bloodstream and weakens arteries. This not only raises your risk of a heart attack, but it can damage the retina and cause vision loss. The good news is that after you quit, your risk of eye disease is about the same as for non-smokers.
Annual eye examination can detect early warning signs.
Make an appointment for a comprehensive eye examination every year.