While not all eye diseases can be prevented, you can take measures to reduce your risk of vision loss and improve your eye health. May is Healthy Vision Month and, through its EyeSmart campaign, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends the following tips to safeguard your eyesight.
More than 20 million Americans currently suffer from severe vision loss, and many of them could have saved their eyesight by taking preventative measures and getting regular eye exams. “Proper care and caution is very important to prevent serious eye diseases and possible blindness,” says Dr Marguerite McDonald, clinical correspondent for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Something as simple as wearing sunglasses or getting an annual eye exam can safeguard your vision and eye health.
10 Tips to avoid vision loss
1. Wear sunglasses
Wearing sunglasses that block 100 percent of ultraviolet (UV) rays can delay the development of cataracts by protecting your eyes from direct sunlight that can damage the retina. Sunglasses also protect the delicate eyelid skin and reduce your risk of wrinkles and skin cancer around the eye. (Sunglasses for fashionable eye and skin protection)
2. Don’t smoke
Tobacco smoking is directly linked to many adverse health effects, including age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Studies show that current smokers and ex-smokers are more likely to develop AMD than people who have never smoked. Smokers are also at increased risk for developing cataracts. (More reasons to quit smoking)
3. Eat right
A vitamin or mineral deficiency can impair retinal function. The belief that eating carrots improves vision has some truth, but a variety of vegetables, especially leafy green ones, should be an important part of your diet. Researchers have found people on diets with higher levels of vitamins C and E, zinc, lutein, zeaxanthin, omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA are less likely to develop early and advanced AMD. (Improve your eyesight with antioxidants and omega-3s)
4. Get a baseline eye exam
Adults with no signs or risk factors for eye disease should get a baseline eye disease screening at age 40 (the age when early signs of disease and changes in vision may start to occur). Based on the results of the initial screening, an ophthalmologist will prescribe the necessary intervals for follow-up exams. If you have symptoms or a family history of eye disease, diabetes or high blood pressure, you should see an ophthalmologist to determine how frequently your eyes should be examined. (Learn more about other medical tests you need)
5. Wear eye protection
An estimated 2.5 million eye injuries occur in the US each year from sports, home repairs and other home projects. Many injuries can be avoided by simply wearing proper eye protection. Sports eye protection should meet the specific requirements of that sport; these requirements are usually established and certified by the sport’s governing body and/or the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). For most repair projects and activities around the home, standard ANSI-approved protective eyewear is sufficient.
6. Know your family history
Many eye diseases cluster in families, so knowing your family’s history of eye disease and discussing it with your ophthalmologist can reduce your risk of vision loss and other eye conditions. (Easy ways to organize your family’s medical records)
7. Early intervention
Age-related eye diseases, including cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and AMD are expected to dramatically increase from 28 million today to 43 million by the year 2020. Most serious eye conditions, such as glaucoma and AMD, are more easily and successfully treated if diagnosed and treated early. Left untreated, these diseases can cause serious vision loss and blindness. Regardless of your age, early intervention now will prevent vision loss later. (More tips to save your eyesight)
8. Know your eye care provider
When you go to get your eyes checked, there are a variety of eye care providers you might see. Ophthalmologists, optometrists and opticians all play an important role in providing eye care services to consumers. However, each has a different level of training and expertise. Make sure you are seeing the right provider for your condition or treatment. Ophthalmologists are specially trained to provide the full spectrum of eye care, from prescribing glasses and contact lenses to complex and delicate eye surgery.
9. Follow your eye doctor’s contact lens instructions
Follow your eye care provider’s instructions regarding the care and use of your contact lenses. Abuse, such as sleeping in contacts that are not approved for overnight wear, using saliva or water as a wetting solution, using expired solutions, and using disposable contact lenses beyond their recommended wear can result in corneal ulcers, severe pain and even vision loss.
10. Be aware of eye fatigue
If your eyes are tired from working at a computer or doing close work, you can follow the 20-20-20 rule: Look up from your work every 20 minutes at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds. If eye fatigue persists, it can be a sign of several different conditions, such as dry eye syndrome, presbyopia, or spectacles with lenses that are not properly centered. See an eye doctor to determine why you are having eye fatigue and to receive proper treatment.You can submit questions to an ophthalmologist or find ophthalmologists in your area by visiting GetEyeSmart.org.