Did you know that 49 percent of Americans worry about losing their eyesight over their ability to walk or hear? It’s true. Fortunately, there are things you can do to preserve your vision, and 2020 is the perfect year to make your eye health a priority.
These easy tips can help reduce your risk of eye problems and increase the chance of enjoying clear vision throughout your lifetime.
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20 Ways to Improve Your Eye Health in 2020
1. Schedule Yearly Comprehensive Eye Exams – It is not enough to have your eyes checked (screened) by your regular doctor. Vision screenings can uncover some problems, but they can miss many others. You should visit an optometrist for a comprehensive eye exam even if you think your vision is fine, and your eyes seem healthy. Regular eye exams can detect many kinds of diseases—such as diabetes, high blood pressure, multiple sclerosis, and some kinds of cancer—before they produce symptoms.
2. Know Your Family’s Eye Health History – It’s important to know if anyone in your biological family has had any eye diseases, as some are passed on from parents to their children. For instance, a family history of high blood pressure or diabetes means an increased risk of suffering from an eye disease. Take your family’s eye diseases’ history seriously and discuss it with your eye doctor in order to avoid becoming another unsuspecting victim.
3. Don’t Rely on Online Vision Screening Tests – Online vision apps can miss serious conditions that a comprehensive eye exam would catch. They can be a great resource for health-related information, but if you rely on them to preserve your eye health and detect potential problems, you could be doing more harm than good.
4. Protect Against UV Rays – No matter the season, it’s important to protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful rays. Choose a pair of sunglasses that blocks more than 95 percent of UV-A and more than 99 percent of UV-B radiation.
5. Give Your Eyes A Break from Digital Devices – Two-thirds of Americans spend up to 7 hours a day using computers or other digital devices such as tablets and smartphones. This constant eye activity can cause problems such as dry eye, eyestrain, headaches, neck and/or backache, and fatigue. Avoid digital eye strain and practice the 20/20/20 rule: every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and look at something 20 feet away.
6. Adjust Screen Brightness & Reduce Glare – To ease eye strain, ensure the top of your computer screen is positioned below your horizontal eye level and tilted back 10° to 20°. The contrast between the characters on the screen and the background makes a difference. Reducing glare may make a bigger difference than increasing the type size.
7. Don’t Forget to Blink – Books and written documents can also put stress on your eyes when looking at them for extended periods. So, make sure to get your head up, look away from the docs and just blink your eyes for a few seconds to relieve the strain.
8. Spend More Time Outdoors – Myopia (also known as “nearsightedness”) has become one of the most increasingly prevalent vision issues in the U.S. in recent years—up 25 percent from just 40 years ago—and health experts expect that trend to continue in the coming decades. While being nearsighted may not sound serious, if left untreated, it can put the eyes at risk for a number of vision-threatening conditions including retinal detachment, early cataract development, macular degeneration, glaucoma, and even blindness. Fortunately, getting more sunlight and limiting time on digital devices may help reduce the risk of developing the condition.
9. Eat Your Greens – As part of a healthy diet, eat five servings of fruits and vegetables each day—particularly the leafy green variety, such as spinach, kale, and collard greens which studies show help protect eyesight and promote eye health.
10. Practice Safe Wear & Care of Contact Lenses – Many common care mistakes—including failing to clean and store lenses as directed by a doctor of optometry and even sleeping, showering or swimming while wearing contacts—can increase the chance of getting bacteria in the eyes and causing infection.
11. Practice Good Hygiene – Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently, avoid touching your eyes with your hands and do not use anyone else’s eye cosmetics or personal eyecare items.
12. Only Purchase Contact Lenses from a trusted source – Purchasing contact lenses that do not have a prescription from anywhere other than your eye doctor can pose significant harm for patients. For example, they may not fit the eye properly, which can cause serious damage to the eye and lead to irreversible loss of vision.
13. Use Protective Eyewear – Wear safety glasses, goggles, and eye guards to prevent visual trauma when playing sports, or doing anything that could produce flying dust or other particles. If you participate in an outdoor sport, appropriate sunglasses are a must. Some sport-specific designs may even help you improve your game. Ask your optometrist which type is best suited for your favorite sport.
14. Protect Your Eyes at Work – Eye injuries in the workplace are very common. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports that every day about 2,000 U.S. workers sustain job-related eye injuries that require medical treatment. However, the right eye protection can lessen the severity or even prevent 90 percent of these eye injuries.
15. Get Regular Exercise – Exercise improves blood circulation, increases oxygen levels to the eyes and helps remove toxins.
16. Avoid Smoking – Smoking exposes your eyes to high levels of dangerous chemicals and increases the risk for developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts.
17. Use Lubricating Eye Drops – If you experience dry eyes or need eye drops, use lubricating drops and keep them stored in the refrigerator to help make them more soothing.
18. Avoid Dry Air – Cozying up in your home through winter might also be an unlikely culprit if dry eyes have been an ongoing issue. A humidifier can help provide relief by adding some much-needed moisture for your eyes.
19. Look Away from Headlights of Oncoming Vehicles – Never look directly at an oncoming vehicle, regardless of the type of headlights it has. If an oncoming vehicle’s headlights seem too bright, or if the driver does not dim his or her high beams, ease off the gas, try not to look directly at the car’s lights and maintain your position in your travel lane by monitoring the lane marker or fog line until the offending vehicle passes.
20. Know Your Eye Care Provider- Make sure you are seeing the right provider for your condition or treatment. Doctors of optometry, also known as optometric physicians or optometrists, provide a range of primary eye care services, from prescribing glasses and contact lenses to the examination, diagnosis, treatment, and management of diseases and disorders of the visual system.
One key takeaway is that everyone should have regular comprehensive eye exams by a licensed eye doctor—not just screenings at school or during a regular doctor’s visit that may miss important eye and vision health issues. To learn more about eye and vision health, or to find a nearby doctor of optometry, please visit aoa.org.