Eye Health—Don’t Take It For Granted
by Ashley Grano
Vision is a crucial part of everyday health, and a key one of the five senses that most people rely on. The eyes are also very fragile and delicate, which should make eye health an important priority. In fact, nearly 21 million Americans have an active vision problem, according to a CDC survey. Problems include everything from non-threatening conditions such as nearsightedness to more advanced problems such as glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration (which can lead to vision loss and even blindness if not treated). Just as with many other aspects of health, taking a holistic approach to eye care can ensure their well-being and help to maintain optimum vision.
Be aware of unusual eye changes
Symptoms of certain eye diseases can be difficult to self-diagnose and are best left to professional care if they persist, worsen in time, or cause severe pain. Watery eyes could just be due to allergies, or a sign of pink eye or a sty. Similarly, light sensitivity could be related to a common headache or indicate a cataract. Some of the most common symptoms of eye diseases include blurriness, discharge, flashes of light, irritation, light sensitivity, pain, tearing or vision loss.
Follow a balanced diet
Diet has a direct correlation to overall eye health in several ways, including both healthy maintenance and prevention of potential problems. For peak health, the eyes require nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, lutein, zinc and vitamins C and E – all of which have been suggested to help prevent age-related vision issues like macular degeneration and cataracts, according to WebMD.
Good vegetable sources include green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale and collards, along with carrots, which are well known for their eye health benefits. Oily fish like salmon and tuna are choice sources of omega-3s as well as protein, plus other nutrient-dense healthy proteins like eggs, nuts, beans, and other nonmeat protein sources. Oranges and other citrus fruits or juices are also vitamin-rich and eye-promoting foods to consume regularly.
Eating a healthy and well-balanced diet rich in vitamins and nutrients can also help with overall weight management, which is an often overlooked factor in maintaining eye health. Obesity and diabetes are closely linked, and type 2 diabetes is one of the leading causes of blindness, reports WebMD.
Schedule an annual eye exam
For many people who have good vision and no apparent eye issues, regular visits to the eye doctor may not seem necessary. However, a comprehensive dilated eye exam by an eye care professional is the only way to check for certain conditions which may not initially cause symptoms or early warning signs– but could lead to more serious complications later on. These conditions include common eye diseases such as glaucoma, diabetic eye disease, and age-related macular degeneration, reports The National Institutes of Health.
Early detection of certain eye disease is crucial to prevent serious complications, so find out from family members if there are potential hereditary risk factors. If eye health issues do run in the family, it is better to be prepared and take preventative measures if possible by discussing options with a professional.
Further, many people with seemingly healthy vision might not even realize that their vision may be even better with the aid of glasses or contacts, which can reduce squinting and eye strain.
Work (and play) smarter with screens
From computer screens to smartphones to tablets and more, we’re surrounded constantly by glowing screens. To avoid headaches, eye fatigue, strain and dryness, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends using the 20-20-20 rule. Simply look away every 20 minutes at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds to give your eyes a break.
Wear eye protection
Maintaining healthy eyes also means keeping in mind simple precautions. The American Academy of Ophthalmology reported that nearly half of all eye injuries occur in or around the home during improvement projects, as a result of not wearing safety goggles or glasses.
To further protect your eyes on a regular basis, always grab a pair of sunglasses whenever heading outdoors to protect from harmful sun rays.