Keep Your Eyes Healthy: Tips for Optimal Eye Health
Eyesight is one of the five senses, and it contributes to a large percentage of what you perceive. But as we age, our sight gets weaker. Deterioration usually happens gradually – to the point that it may go unnoticed for a long time.
Proper eye care means having regular eye checkups, not just when you sense you have an issue to address. Having an eye doctor that you trust and see at least once a year is important to reduce the chance of developing ocular diseases, detecting vision impairments in an early stage and getting corrective eyewear to make your health and your life better.
A Checklist for Optimal Eye Health
You can help your eyesight by eating a healthy diet to avoiding things such as smoking, ultraviolet light and too much time in front of a screen. The one thing that always improves your odds of having strong vision is regular visits to the optometrist.
From diet to habits to doctor visits, let’s walk you through the many ways that you can do to keep your vision in the best possible shape.
A healthy diet is vital in eye care. If you have certain nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, in your diet you can improve your overall eye health and vision.
Research shows that nutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin A, lutein, zeaxanthin, essential fatty acids, and zinc can help reduce your risk of developing eye diseases such as cataracts, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration. Foods that contain these powerful ingredients include:
- Green leafy vegetables – Kale, spinach, collard greens, Brussels sprouts, carrots and lettuce
- Fruits – Oranges, red berries, kiwi, tomatoes and grapefruit
- Nuts and legumes – Walnuts, cashew nuts, groundnuts, garden peas and soybeans
- Oily Fish – Sardines and salmon
- Dairy products
Smoking is bad for your eye health. Numerous studies show that smoking increases your likelihood of developing cataracts, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, dry eye syndrome and optical nerve damage. These serious conditions can lead to vision loss and blindness.
The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation causes cumulative damage to your eyes and skin. Prolonged exposure to UV light can increase your chances of developing macular degeneration and cataracts. Damage from UV exposure usually doesn’t show until middle to old age.
So, it is advisable to always wear sunglasses to protect your eyes when you are outdoors. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of UV light. These glasses can come as ground and polished, polarized, dark lensed, photochromic, wraparound, mirror coated or blue-blocking sunglasses.
Protective eyewear or safety goggles are crucial to prevent eye injuries especially when working with airborne or hazardous materials and potentially dangerous tools. This is crucial if you’re doing construction work or home repairs. Protective eyewear is also important for some sports such as hockey, lacrosse, and racquetball.
Limiting Screen Time
Looking at computers, smartphones, or television screens for prolonged periods can cause eye strain, dry eyes, headaches, blurry vision, and trouble focusing. Ensure that you rest your eyes periodically, preferably every 20 minutes, and take frequent breaks. It would be best if you also used the right computer eyewear and anti-glare screens.
Regular Eye Doctor Visits
You could have a developing eye problem even when your eyes feel normal and healthy. Many eye diseases don’t show any signs and symptoms. So, it is crucial to visit your eye doctor regularly for eye examinations.
The exams are important because they can help detect eye diseases such as glaucoma, which may not have produced any symptoms. You can visit an optometrist or ophthalmologist. An optometrist diagnoses and treats most eye conditions and provides general eye care. An ophthalmologist gives specialized care, treats eye conditions and performs eye surgery, such as LASIK.
Successful treatment of eye diseases relies on early detection, which is only possible through regular eye doctor visits. Ophthalmologists and optometrists recommend a comprehensive eye examination at least once every two to three years.
You should have eye exams more often if you have a history of eye disease, wear glasses or contact lenses or have a condition such as diabetes that predisposes you to eye problems.
What to Expect During an Eye Exam
An eye exam is made up of a variety of tests to detect problems affecting your eye health and measure the quality of your vision. Your optometrist or ophthalmologist can conduct a dilated or un-dilated eye exam.
A dilated eye exam is a simple exam to help detect vision problems, such as nearsightedness and farsightedness. The eye doctor administers drops to dilate your pupils to check for problems. Dilated eye tests include:
- Visual Acuity Test: This measures the clarity of your vision or how well you can see. The most common test is an eye chart, where your doctor will ask you to read the letters from a specific distance.
- Visual Field Test: This checks your peripheral field of vision, including your side and central vision. It can help detect weaknesses and restrictions in tracking visual objects.
- Pupillary Response Test: It involves shining a light into your eyes to test how your pupils constrict and dilate in response to light. This test can reveal much about your eye and general health. Some pupillary reactions can be indicative of neurological problems.
- Applanation Tonometry Test: This is used to measure the fluid pressure, or intraocular pressure, which can help detect certain eye conditions such as glaucoma. Your eye doctor places a small amount of fluorescein into your eye and moves a small device called a tonometer to touch your cornea gently. Your cornea’s resistance to indentation helps determine intraocular pressure.
- Slit Lamp Test: A slit lamp or biomicroscope is used to examine the front and back of the eye. The instrument magnifies your eyes and illuminates them with a bright light to enable your doctor to examine individual structures, including your cornea, conjunctiva, lens, iris, anterior chamber and eyelids. It can reveal eye diseases and defects, such as cataracts.
- Cover Test: This simple test checks how well your eyes work together. Your eye doctor will cover and uncover one of your eyes while you focus on an object. This helps detect conditions such as amblyopia (lazy eye), strabismus (crossed eyes), and depth perception problems.
While dilated eye exams are important, they can cause blurry vision and sensitivity to light afterwards. An un-dilated eye exam alternative is scanning laser ophthalmoscopy. This retinal imaging method allows doctors to observe the majority of your retina without dilating drops.
During the exam, you look into a laser instrument one eye at a time. It scans your retina digitally and uses different laser light wavelengths to capture an image of your retina. The image is filtered, and your doctor can evaluate various layers of your retina. It is a non-invasive, fast, comfortable and efficient eye exam method.
When Should Children First Visit the Eye Doctor?
According to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, all children should undergo vision screening starting from the age of 3. Rather than identifying letters, young children can help the eye doctor by identifying shapes on an eye chart.
The most common eye problem for young children is amblyopia, which is reduced vision because of poor coordination between the eyes and the brain. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, amblyopia is the most common contributor to vision loss in children, affecting two to three out of 100 children. Vision screening is considered not necessary for children below age 3.
Explaining Common Eye Issues
Just to review what has been talked about, here is a list of some of the most common eye conditions and diseases.
- Age-related macular degeneration: This is a deterioration of the retina or growth of blood vessels under the retina that results in a loss of central vision as you get older.
- Farsightedness: It is an inability to see close objects clearly because of refractive errors.
- Nearsightedness: It is an inability to see distant objects clearly because of refractive errors.
- Blepharitis: This is an inflammation of the eyelids resulting in itchy, sore, and gritty eyes.
- Cataracts: This is where the clouding of your eye’s internal lens causes blurred or impaired vision and vision loss.
- Astigmatism: It happens when you have an improper curvature of the cornea and your eye cannot properly focus light on your retina.
- Conjunctivitis: This is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, the transparent layer covering the front of your eye.
- Diabetic retinopathy: This serious condition is progressive damage to the blood vessels in your retina due to high blood sugar.
- Dry eyes: It happens when your eyes don’t produce enough tears or your tears evaporate too quickly to lubricate your eyes properly.
- Glaucoma: This is progressive vision loss due to increased intraocular pressure affecting your central and peripheral vision.
- Amblyopia: It is reduced vision in one eye due to poor coordination between the brain and the eye.
- Retinitis: This is caused by an infection or inflammation of your retina.
Diabetes and Your Eyes
Diabetic eye diseases are a group of conditions associated with those who have diabetes. They diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, diabetic macular edema, glaucoma, and dry eye syndrome. Diabetes can damage your eyes and result in impaired vision or even blindness if left untreated.
When your blood sugar is too high, it can affect your eyes by damaging the minute blood vessels at the back of your eyes. These vessels leak fluid that causes swelling and increased intraocular pressure. New blood vessels that grow in the affected areas can cause scarring and increase eye pressure as well. All these conditions can lead to diabetic eye diseases.
Other Eye Health Topics
A Guide to Understanding Glasses (or Contact Lens) Prescriptions
Eye Exam and Vision Testing Guide
Causes and Treatment of Brown Spots on Eyes (Nevi)
Cheap and Free Eye Exams and Where to Get Them
Bumps Under the Eyes (Milia, Styes, Chalazion): Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment
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Look to Fruits and Vegetables for Good Eye Health. (July 2016). New York State Department of Health.
Smoking Can Lead to Vision Loss or Blindness. (December 2009). New York State Department of Health.
Recommended Types of Sunglasses. (December 2015). American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Keep an Eye on Your Vision Health. (October 2020). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The 8-Point Eye Exam. (May 2016). American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Get a Dilated Eye Exam. (May 2021). National Eye Institute.
Adaptive optics scanning laser ophthalmoscopy. (May 2002). OPTICA Publishing Group.
Scanning Laser Ophthalmoscopy: Clinical Applications. (July 1982). The Journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Vision in Children Ages 6 Months to 5 years: Screening. (September 2017). U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.
Common Eye Disorders and Diseases. (June 2020). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Diabetic Eye Disease. (May 2017). National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
Last Updated April 7, 2022
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