10 Tips for Healthy Eyes
By Amanda Greene
Learn how to keep your vision strong
March is National Save Your Vision Month, which is a good reminder not to take healthy eyesight for granted. “When you’re seeing well and have no irritation, it’s easy to forget about going to the eye doctor,” says Pamela Lowe, OD, FAAO. But preventing eye disease is so important—often, if you wait until you notice a problem, it can be too late. Luckily, there are plenty of simple things you can do each day to keep your sight in tip-top shape. Here, 10 easy ways to be proactive about your eye health.
1. Get Regular Eye Exams
Seems obvious, right? Surprisingly, many people who care about their eyesight aren’t always that good about getting to the doctor. A survey by the American Optometric Association (AOA) found that 85 percent of people valued their sight as their most prized sense, but less than half of that group had had an eye exam in the past two or three years. What gives? “People tend not to think about preventive care…Many diseases affect the eye in such a way that you can see 20/20 until suddenly, one day you can’t,” says Dr. Lowe.
Adults, especially those over 40, should have yearly eye exams, particularly to prevent age-related ocular conditions including macular degeneration (the part of the retina that processes light deteriorates), cataracts (the lens of your eye becomes cloudy) and glaucoma (pressure in the eye damages the optic nerve). Children should have their first eye exam between the ages of 6 and 12 months. “It’s important to detect visual problems that could impede a child’s ability to learn,” says Dr. Lowe. To make that easier, the AOA has a program called InfantSEE that allows babies to have their first eye exam at no cost, regardless of insurance coverage.
2. Give Your Eye Doctor Your Health History
Be sure your optometrist or ophthalmologist knows about what’s medically relevant. “The most important contribution a patient can give me is a thorough and accurate health history,” says Dr. Lowe. Patients often don’t realize that there’s a connection between illnesses in the body and eye issues. Hypertension, blood pressure and diabetes can all be detected by looking in the back of the eye, so “alert your doctor to your risk factors so she can take the right course of action during the exam.” Also mention your hobbies to your doctor—knowing what sports or leisure activities you like to do in your free time makes it easier for him or her to make appropriate recommendations for correcting vision and keeping your eyes healthy.
3. Control the Air Quality in Your Home or Office
In the winter, the heating systems in homes and offices create dry air. Consider using a portable humidifier to keep the air moist, which will help prevent eye irritation caused by dryness. If you have a pet, keeping their hair off areas where you sit or lie down, like couches and chairs, is important as well. Along with shedding dander, pets can also track in other irritants from outside that can cause inflammation in the eyes.