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% 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. Tell your eye doctor about any current or past health issues, including family members with eye problems or serious illnesses.
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.
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. 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.
If you smoke, stop. Smoking means a dramatic increase in incidence of macular degeneration as well as raising your risk of developing cataracts and aggravating 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.
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All About Vision: "Vitamin A and Beta Carotene: Eye Benefits."
American Academy of Family Physicians: "Eye Problems."
American Academy of Ophthalmology: "Computer Use and Eyestrain," "Four Fantastic Foods to Keep Your Eyes Healthy," "Ophthalmologists Warn that Serious, Blinding Eye Diseases
May Show No Early Symptoms," "Preventing Eye Injuries," "Protective Eyewear," "Smoking and Eye Health," "Using Eye Makeup."
American Optometric Association: "The Need for Comprehensive Vision Examination of Preschool and School-age Children" and "Recommended Eye Examination Frequency for Pediatric Patients and Adults."
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center: "True or False: Eating Carrots Improves Vision."
Better Health Channel: "Smoking and Eye Disease."
Center for Vision Loss: "Medication Can Affect Your Eyes."
National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health: "Sports-Related Eye Injuries: What You Need to Know and Tips for Prevention," "What Is a Comprehensive Dilated Eye Exam?"
Andrea P. Thau, OD, FAAO, FCOVD, Associate Clinical Professor, SUNY State College of Optometry, New York; spokesperson, American Optometric Association.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: "Prevent Eye Damage: Protect Yourself from UV Radiation."
U.S. Food and Drug Administration: "Contact Lens Care."
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.