Current statistics show that over 20 million people in the U.S. have or are experiencing loss of vision. Although some age-related, eye diseases might be inevitable, there are some easy, precautionary measures we can all do to ensure the heath of our eyes.
Below are ten of the most highly suggested ways to prevent eye disease:
1. Use UV protecting sunglasses.
Simply wearing UV-blocking sunglasses, you can prevent cataracts because evidence shows direct sunlight accelerates the advancement of such conditions at any stage. Shielding your eyes from direct UV light safeguards your eyes from retinal damage as well as cancerous growths in and around the eye. Be sure your glasses offer 100% protection from UV, UV-A, and UV-B rays.
2. If you smoke, quit.
Smoking cigarettes have a detrimental effect on many systems of the body and can be directly attributed to age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Research has demonstrated that there is a much greater likelihood of developing AMD if you are a smoker. Furthermore, those who smoke cigarettes, significantly increase their chances of developing cataracts.
3. Eat nutrient rich foods.
A diet rich in vitamins and minerals is not only one of the best ways to care for your eyes, it is also fundamental in ensuring the health of your body as a whole. If you aren’t getting enough vitamins, you could be putting the functionality of your retina at risk. As a rule of thumb, incorporate a variety of brightly colored fruits and vegetables into your diet. Studies show that those who eat a diet high in vitamin C and E, zinc, lutein, zeaxanthin, omega-3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA, are far less likely to show any signs of AMD.
4. Get your eyes examined.
Initial symptoms of eye disease typically begin at around age 40. It is recommended that you get a baseline eye disease screening at this time to prevent the onset of disease. Your ophthalmologist will ensure the requisite follow-up visits and help you determine the appropriate course of action. If you are showing any symptoms, have a family history of eye disease, or have high blood pressure, it would be prudent to make an appointment with your doctor for a professional consultation.
5. Eye Safety
Often regarded as “common sense”, the use of eye protection for certain sports, home repair, house cleaning is often neglected. It is estimated that 2.5 million people suffer eye injuries every year. Wearing appropriate eye protection can reduce the chances of damaging your eyes significantly. When doing repair work or activities around the home that might involve projectiles near your eyes, standard ANSI-approved eyewear is recommended. When considering protection from sports related injuries, check with the specific sports’ governing agency along with the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).
6. Consider your family history.
Knowing what runs in your family could save you a lot of work and frustration. You could have a high risk for a specific eye disease that if checked early, may be preventable. Many age-related eye diseases can be traced to familial origins. Diabetic retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration, and cataracts are expected to be more common by the year 2020. You have the power to minimize the risk now.
7. Don’t wait.
Early intervention might be all it takes to prevent eye disease. Glaucoma and AMD for example, are treated with a higher success rate when symptoms are diagnosed and cared for early on. Severe loss of vision and even blindness can result if these diseases are not attended to. Some attentiveness to your eye health now can help you avert serious consequences down the line.
8. Find the right doctor.
There are a variety of eye care specialists trained to diagnose and treat eye conditions. Ophthalmologists, optometrists, and opticians each have unique skills and expertise, so finding one fits your needs is important. Be prepared to describe your symptoms and ask any relevant questions.
9. Be careful with your contact lens
Your eye doctor will provide instructions on how to care for contact lenses should you require them. Be sure not to neglect your lenses by sleeping with them on or using solutions other than what your M.D. prescribes. Ensure your solution and lenses are not expired as this could result in ulcers, irritation, and possible loss of vision.
10. Follow the 20-20-20 rule.
If you regularly work in front of a computer monitor, your eyes could get strained and fatigued leading to more serious conditions. Focus your sight away from your monitor every 20 minutes at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds. If you don’t notice any improvement, it might be an indication of another disorder. Alternative conditions may be dry eyes, presbyopia, or eyeglasses with distorted lenses. Tell your doctor about your symptoms to determine the best possible treatment. Great sources to ask questions about eye health and to find an ophthalmologist are: Ask an Eye M.D. and Find an Eye M.D.