Get the lowdown on 11 super-simple things you can do to make sure your eyes stay their healthiest…
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.
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.
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 per cent of sports-related eye injuries. Lenses should be made of polycarbonate plastic — which is 10 times more impact resistant than other materials. Some sports with the most injuries are baseball/softball, racket sports, lacrosse, and basketball.
Eat for Your Heart and Your Eyes
Foods that help circulation are good for your heart, eyes, 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. And carrots do help eyesight: The vitamin A in them is important for good vision. 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).
Don’t Ignore Eye Problems
If your eyes are itchy or red, soothe them with cold compresses, antihistamines, or eye drops. If you feel grittiness, like there’s sand in your eye, rinse with clean water or saline. See a doctor if symptoms continue, or if you have eye pain, secretions, swelling, or sensitivity to light. Other reasons to see a doctor: dark floating spots, flashes of light, or any time you can’t see normally.
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.
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 eyes, too. Other threats include multiple sclerosis, aneurysms, and cancer.
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.
Throw Away Old Eye Makeup
Bacteria grow easily in liquid or creamy eye makeup. Throw out products after 3 months. 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.
Get Regular Eye Exams
You should get your eyes checked regularly, even if you don’t wear glasses.
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. n
Reviewed by Robert Butterwick, OD
Maintaining Good Eye Health
Don’t take your eye health for granted. Protect your eyesight with these six tips:
1. Eat for Good Vision
Protecting your eyes starts with the food on your plate. Studies have shown that nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, lutein, zinc, and vitamins C and E may help ward off age-related vision problems such as macular degeneration and cataracts. Regularly eating these foods can help lead to good eye health:
- Green, leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, and collards
- Salmon, tuna, and other oily fish
- Eggs, nuts, beans, and other non-meat protein sources
- Oranges and other citrus fruits or juices
Eating a well-balanced diet also helps you maintain a healthy weight, which makes you less likely to get obesity-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in adults.
2. Quit Smoking for Better Eyesight
Smoking makes you more likely to get cataracts, optic nerve damage, and macular degeneration. If you’ve tried to quit smoking before and started smoking again, keep trying. Studies show that the more times you try to quit smoking, the more likely you are to succeed.
3. Wear Sunglasses for Good Vision
The right kind of sunglasses will help protect your eyes from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. Too much UV exposure makes you more likely to get cataracts and macular degeneration. Choose sunglasses that block 99 per cent to 100 per cent of both UVA and UVB rays. Wraparound lenses help protect your eyes from the side. Polarised lenses reduce glare when driving. If you wear contact lenses, some offer UV protection. It’s still a good idea to wear sunglasses for more protection.
4. Use Safety Eyewear at Home, at Work, and While Playing Sports
If you work with hazardous or airborne materials at work or home, wear safety glasses or protective goggles every time. Certain sports such as ice hockey, racquetball, and lacrosse can also lead to eye injury. Wear eye protection (such as helmets with protective face masks or sports goggles with polycarbonate lenses) to shield your eyes.
5. Look Away From the Computer for Good Eye Health
Staring at a computer screen can cause:
- Blurry vision
- Difficulty focusing at a distance
- Dry eyes
- Neck, back, and shoulder pain
Protect your eye health by taking the following steps:
- Make sure your glasses or contact lens prescription is up-to-date and adequate for computer use.
- Some people may need glasses to help with contrast, glare, and eye strain when using a computer.
- Position your computer so that your eyes are level with the top of the monitor. This allows you to look slightly down at the screen.
- Try to avoid glare on your computer from windows and lights. Use an anti-glare screen if needed.
- Choose a comfortable, supportive chair. Position it so that your feet are flat on the floor.
- If your eyes are dry, blink more.
- Every 20 minutes, rest your eyes by looking 20 feet away for 20 seconds. At least every two hours, get up and take a 15-minute break.