Most of us are well aware of the five senses bestowed to us through which we interact with our environment, i.e. vision, hearing, smell, taste, and touch, right? But how many of you have ever really wondered which of these is considered the most valuable.
Sure, each of these senses is invaluable in its own right, but vision is considered to be the most important of all, as it is used to perceive about 80% of all impressions.
So, now you’re getting a better idea of why you should tend to your eye health much more seriously, and if not, it’s going to hurt your pocket as well. Wait a minute, did I just say ‘your pocket’? Let me get it right, it hurts ‘our’ pockets!
Wondering how? Let me refer you to a study titled ‘The Economic Burden of Vision Loss and Eye Disorders in the United States, according to which vision problems cost the US government about $139 billion annually.
Neglecting eye care not only affects you financially but also affects your quality of life. One in six American adults (aged 45 and above) suffer from one or the other type of eye problems and the risks associated with vision loss only grow as you age. According to estimates by the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), by 2020, 43 million-plus Americans will be affected by age-related eye diseases.
If eye problems like cataracts, low vision, macular degeneration, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy make you cringe, you better protect your eyesight, because a little eye care now will go a long way in maintaining your eyesight in the later years of your life. One of the best ways is to follow these 10 tips for optimal eye health.
1. Healthy Diet Healthy Eyesight: Yes, it starts as simple as that; you are what you eat and so is your eyesight. Foods rich in nutrients like vitamin C and E, zinc, lutein, and omega-3 fatty acids strengthen your eyes against age-related eye problems like cataracts and macular degeneration. Some great foods for eye health include:
- Vegetables: Leafy green veggies like spinach, collards, and kale
- Fish: Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, sardines, and mackerel
- Fruits: Citrus fruits like lemons, grapefruits, and oranges
- Non Meat protein sources: Eggs, nuts, and beans
2. Quit Smoking: Haven’t been able to quit smoking yet? Need some added motivation? What about not getting cataracts, macular degeneration, and uveitis (in addition to various other health issues)? Research suggests that the likelihood of smokers getting affected by these debilitating eye conditions increases twice to thrice. So, here is to those of you who like their eyesight more than a cigarette.
3. Shades are Helpful: If you consider sunglasses a mere fashion accessory, think again. The right pair of shades can help you stay away from cataracts, macular degeneration, and pinguecula by blocking out the sun’s harmful UV (ultraviolet) rays. A good pair of UV protection sunglasses can block 99 – 100% of harmful UV rays. In case you are wondering, UV protection contact lenses are also available.
4. Don’t Underestimate the Power of Protective Eyewear: Safety glasses are highly recommended if you are exposed to some sort of hazardous airborne materials at your job or even at home. Not only that, resort to protective glasses if you are into sports like ice hockey, lacrosse, or squash/racquetball.
5. Avoid Excessive Exposure to Computer Screens: In addition to causing neck, back, and shoulder pain, staring too long at a computer/phone screen can affect your eye health severely. Some of the eye problems you can get from excessive exposure to computer/phone screens include:
- Dry eyes
- Blurry vision
- Long-distance focus issues
Some protective measures include:
- Updating your glasses or contacts prescription for screen exposure.
- Seeking proper medical care in case of prolonged eye strain and considering computer glasses for computer use.
- Choosing a comfortable supportive chair and positioning it where your feet lie flat on the floor.
- Blinking more if your eyes dry up.
- Following the 20-20-20 rule where you rest your eyes every 20 minutes by looking 20 feet away for 20 seconds continuously.
- Taking 15-minutes breaks every 2 hours and getting up from your chair is also recommended.
6. Incorporate Blinking Breaks: Don’t only blame computers and phone screens for eye strain. Books and written documents can also cause eyestrain when looked upon for extended periods. So, make sure to get your head up, look away from the docs and just blink your eyes for a few seconds to relieve the strain.
7. Consult Eye Doctor Regularly: Never undermine the significance of a regular eye exam. Your eyes need specialized care because they are one of the most sophisticated organs in your body. Spotting eye diseases like glaucoma is quite challenging. Only an eye specialist will be able to do so appropriately using the required knowledge, experience, tools, and techniques. Experts recommend having a comprehensive eye exam at least once every two years. Some of the essential components of a comprehensive eye exam might include:
- Vision tests to determine farsightedness/nearsightedness, presbyopia (changes in vision due to aging process), astigmatism (blurred vision caused by a curved cornea).
- Tests to determine coordination between both eyes.
- Optic nerve and eye pressure tests to spot glaucoma.
- Microscopic and external eye examination before and after dilation.
8. Be Vigilant about Eye Problems – Look for Signs : Periodically visiting your eye doctor is a great routine to follow, but don’t rely solely on that; it’s your eye health at stake. Be vigilant about your eyesight and keep looking for any changes in your vision. Some red flags to look for include:
- Hazy vision
- Double vision
- Problem seeing in low light conditions
- Red eyes for prolong periods
- Constant eye pain and swelling
- Frequent flashes of light
If any of these signs and symptoms prevail, consult your eye doctor immediately for a detailed investigation into the matter.
9. Consider Your Family Health History : Of all other factors, you might also be simply unlucky to get an unwanted eye ailment, because many eye diseases cluster in families. For instance, a family history of high blood pressure or diabetes means an increased risk of suffering from an eye disease. So, take your family’s eye disease history seriously and discuss it with your eye doctor to avoid becoming another unsuspecting victim.
10. Fresh Air: The benefits of fresh air shall not be confined to the lungs and heart. Fresh air directly supplies oxygen to the corneas in your eyes, because they lack their oxygen supply mechanism. So, make sure to let your eyes soak in as much fresh air as possible.
11. Avoid Rubbing Your Eyes: Oddly enough, a huge majority of people seem to be nurturing the habit of rubbing their eyes every other minute. For many of them, eye-rubbing turns into an irritating habit, which is quite damaging for eye health. You need to realize that most of the time your hands are covered with a host of germs responsible for different types of diseases and infections. So, it’s better if you get rid of this unhealthy habit, but if you can’t, make sure to keep your hands as clean as possible. You can use anything from soaps to sanitizers, just keep them clean if you can’t stop rubbing them over your eyes.
12. Stick to Quality Products If Eye Makeup is Your Thing: The truth is that rubbing disease-laden hands over your eyes is not the only way to harm them, eye makeup can serve the purpose as well, especially if you are not quality conscious. Harmful bacteria can thrive in a lot of unlikely places, including the mascara you wear and the tips of liner pencils you use to beautify your eyes with. Don’t stick with the same mascara tube for more than 3 months and don’t forget to sharpen the tips of your favorite liner pencils. Always prefer quality brands when buying eye makeup to sustain and enjoy healthy eyes as long as possible.
13. Be Careful About Your Contacts: Of course, I’m not talking about contacts saved in your phone’s contact list, it’s your contact lenses that you need to be extra careful about. If you believe you are already taking good care of your contacts, think again, because a study conducted by the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas revealed that about 85% of users of contact lenses wrongly believe that they are careful enough with their contacts. Only 2% of them fulfilled the requisites. So, follow the prescription guidelines thoroughly when handling your contacts instead of (supposedly) cleaning them with everything from saliva to tap water or baby oil if you want to keep your eyes as healthy and disease-free as possible.
14. Worry about Your Eye Health More than Your Health Insurance Covering Eye Exams: There’s no denying how hard it is to manage your finances, but it seems nothing compared to managing with vision impairment or vision loss. Contrary to popular belief, you can get your eyes screened even with regular health insurance if you have a family history of an increased risk factor for diseases like glaucoma. Moreover, there are not-for-profit organizations as well, which provide eye exams and other sorts of eye care facilities to those who qualify. Trying them is still better than repenting over why you didn’t do that in time.
15. Avoid Dry Air: Cozying up to your home through winter might also be an unlikely culprit if dry eyes have been bugging you of late. A humidifier can be of great assistance in such scenarios, adding some much-needed moisture to help your eyes stay hydrated.
16. Stay Hydrated: Talking of dry eyes, dehydration can also lead to it. The human body relies heavily on water to function smoothly. If you are not conscious about fluid level in your body, tear production in your eyes is also affected amongst a myriad of other complications, which results in dry eyes. Simply, stay hydrated to keep your eyes out of trouble.
17. Sleep Well: Your eyes can also get into trouble if you are in a habit of skipping sleep regularly. Adequate sleep ensures that your eyes are well-rested and strain-free.
18. Sharing Your Towel is Not a Good Idea: Being generous is one thing and sharing your towel is a different one. It’s more like choosing between the two because sharing face towels and washers means getting your eyes vulnerable to contagious eye infections like conjunctivitis (or pinkeye).
19. Avoid Excessive Coffee Consumption: To be honest, that hurt me the most as well, but I still prefer healthy eyes. If the thought of a steamy cup in front of you every afternoon is too strong to resist, try replacing coffee with green tea. In addition to fulfilling your body’s fluid requirements, green tea is known to be a great source of catechins, which along with other antioxidants (like vitamin C, vitamin E, zeaxanthin, and lutein) help eyes fight against various eye problems including cataracts and AMD.
20. The Sooner the Better: Timing is of undeniable significance when it comes to treating the most serious eye conditions like AMD and glaucoma. The sooner they get diagnosed, the higher is the probability of treating them successfully. So, start consulting your eye doctor regularly before it’s too late.