About 142 million Americans over the age of 40 deal with vision problems, according to a 2016 report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM). Many times, these issues can be addressed or even prevented.
Most of us don’t think too much about our eye health, but it’s incredibly important. Don’t wait until it’s too late to care for your vision. Here are some ways to protect your eyes—at any age—for many years to come.
1. Practice Good Contacts Hygiene
Contacts are a convenient alternative to glasses, and a safe way to correct your vision—if you use them correctly.
The most crucial aspect of contact use is hygiene. Bad cleaning and storing habits can increase the chance of eye infections, which can cause pain at the least and blindness at the worst.
Follow your eye doctor’s instruction carefully for proper storage, cleaning and replacement of contact lenses. And always get your prescription rechecked once a year.
2. Take Regular Breaks from Lit Screens
Most Americans have jobs that keep them in front of a computer screen much of the day. This can lead to digital eye strain, which results from prolonged use of computers, cell phones, tablets and e-readers.
Symptoms can include:
- dry eyes
- blurred vision and other vision problems
- neck and shoulder pain
To avoid digital eye strain during work, follow the 20-20-20 rule recommended by the American Optometric Association and Save Your Vision Month: Every 20 minutes take a 20-second break to look at something 20 feet away.
This rule also applies to younger adults, children, and those who play video games.
3. Wear the Right Sunglasses
The sun and many artificial light sources give off ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Many people know UV rays are bad for your skin, but they’re dangerous for your eyes, too.
The longer your eyes are exposed to this light, the greater your risk of macular degeneration and cataracts. Whenever you’re outside, protect your eyes by wearing sunglasses that have 99 to 100 percent UVA and UVB radiation protection.
4. Wear the Right Type of Eye Protection at Work
Workplace eye injuries are very common. If you work in an industry that presents potential eye hazards like chemicals, radiation, flying particles or bloodborne pathogens, you’ll need proper eyewear to protect your vision.
Depending on your job, you might need a certain type of safety glasses, goggles, helmet or face shields. Speak with your employer to ensure you’re provided the right type of eye protection.
5. Eat Foods with Lutein and Zeaxanthin
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts are the leading causes of blindness and visual impairment in the United States.
Many studies have shown consuming the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which are also found in our eyes, reduce the risk of chronic eye conditions like cataracts and AMD. They do this by filtering harmful blue light wavelengths to help protect healthy eye cells.
Foods that contain these two nutrients include:
- green leafy vegetables like kale, spinach and collard greens
- brussels sprouts
- egg yolks
6. Get a Yearly Eye Exam
Remember to see an optometrist at least every one to two years for a comprehensive eye exam. Your doctor will check for any vision problems and address any worries or symptoms you might have. This is the best way to prevent long-term conditions from developing or worsening.
The Bottom Line
Don’t neglect your precious eyes! Practice good eye hygiene and computer use, utilize the right eye gear at work, and eat a healthy diet that includes vision-protective nutrients.