“The eyes are the window to the soul” ― Old English Proverb
It has been estimated that up to 80% of our perception, learning, cognition and activities are mediated through vision. Additionally, most activities, whether work-related or for pleasure, are enhanced by visual input. Since vision is such a precious sense, problems affecting the eyes are some of the most worrisome that people experience. Some eye conditions, such as presbyopia, the aging-related condition associated with a diminished ability to read fine print or see close objects, will affect almost all of us. Others can be avoided with attention to the eye-protective measures below:
1. Undergo a formal eye examination. The best way to evaluate the eyes is with a comprehensive eye exam. In their earlier stages, some eye conditions including glaucoma, macular degeneration and diabetic eye disease can only be detected with a dilated eye exam. Also, many people do not realize how much they can benefit from vision correction until the improvement is demonstrated during an examination.
2. Eat for eye health. Research has shown that foods containing certain nutrients can help prevent age-related macular degeneration, a major cause of blindness in this country. These nutrients include omega-3 fatty acids (tuna, salmon), lutein (spinach, kale, broccoli), vitamin C (citrus fruits) and vitamin E (nuts, vegetable oils).
3. Keep your weight in a healthy range. Obesity is the primary risk factor for the development of Type 2 diabetes and a diabetes-related eye condition called diabetic retinopathy. This is the leading cause of blindness in U.S. adults. Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the most important measures in preventing the development of Type 2 diabetes.
4. Wear protective eyewear when playing sports. Sports participation causes thousands of eye injuries each year. Some activities, including hockey, baseball, lacrosse, and racquet sports are at particular high risk for causing eye injuries. Most of these injuries can be prevented with appropriate protective eyewear. Depending on the sport, eye protection can be provided with polycarbonate eyewear, sports goggles, or protective face masks.
5. Stop smoking. Smoking has been associated with the development of several eye conditions including cataracts and macular degeneration. Smoking is also thought to accelerate the development of retinopathy in diabetics. Quitting smoking can reduce this risk.
6. Wear sunglasses. Long-term exposure the ultraviolet radiation from the sun (UVA and UVB) is a leading cause for the development of cataracts. Protection against UV-induced damage is provided by sunglasses that are rated to block 99-100 percent of UVA and UVB rays.
7. Disinfect and replace contact lenses. Improper maintenance of contact lenses can lead to the development of eye infections. Thorough hand washing prior to putting contacts in or taking them out can reduce this risk. Also contact lenses need to be disinfected and replaced as recommended.
8. Practice workplace safety. The organization, Prevent Blindness, reports that up to 2,000 people injure their eyes at work each day. Common causes for work-related injuries include the eyes being damaged by flying objects (metal bits, glass, etc.), tools, and chemicals. Ten to twenty percent of these injuries result in temporary or permanent vision loss. Fortunately, most of these injuries can be prevented by wearing safety glasses, eye shields or protective goggles.
9. Give your eyes a break. Staring at a computer screen for hours on end is a major cause of eye strain and dry eyes. Measures that can reduce eye fatigue include use of an anti-glare screen, corrective eyewear, eye lubricants, and periodic eye rest. One trick for reducing eye strain is to follow the 20-20-20 rule—-every 20 minutes that you are working on the computer, look away at something that is approximately 20 feet away for 20 seconds.