We experience life with our eyes, which is why it’s so important to take care of your vision. Colors, shapes, faces… about half of the brain’s cortex is devoted to processing visual information transmitted from the retina.
May is Healthy Vision Month, serving as a timely reminder of the impact that good – or bad – eye care habits can have on your vision. The National Eye Institute projects that by 2030, 11.4 million people will have diabetic retinopathy, 4.2 million will have glaucoma, and 3.7 million will have age-related macular degeneration.
Vision impairment and blindness can seriously impact your quality of life, so taking control of your eye health now will help make sure you can see well into the future.
The first step toward better overall eye health is to schedule a visit to the eye doctor. According to the National Eye Institute, more than 23 million Americans age 18 and older have never had an eye exam.
It’s a common misconception that an exam isn’t needed unless a noticeable loss in vision or eye injury occurs. This is not the case! Your annual visit to the eye doctor is vital, as it provides ophthalmologists and optometrists an opportunity to monitor and detect developing eye conditions before vision loss occurs.
Make your vision a priority by considering these nine tips for improving your eye health:
- Have a comprehensive dilated eye exam. Many common eye diseases including glaucoma, diabetic eye disease, and age-related macular degeneration often have no warning signs. A dilated eye exam allows an ophthalmologist to monitor for, detect and treat these diseases in the early stages.
- Wear sunglasses. Even on a cloudy day! Sunlight accelerates the aging of delicate eye tissue. Sunglasses protect your eyes from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Look for shades that block out 99% of both UVA and UVB radiation.
- Eat eye-healthy foods. It’s true! Carrots are good for your eyes. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables, especially dark, leafy greens as well as fish high in omega 3-fatty acids can help protect your vision.
- Be physically active. Anything that gets your heart beating faster can help keep your eyes healthy. Maintaining a healthy weight helps avoid diabetes and other systemic conditions that can lead to vision loss. Cardiovascular exercises will lower intraocular pressure, which helps keep the retinal ganglion cells protected. Cardio exercise also increases the flow of blood to the optic nerve and retina.
- Give your eyes a rest. If you look at a computer screen or the same thing all day, use the 20-20-20 rule throughout the day to reduce eye strain. Every 20 minutes look away from screens and focus about 20 feet in front of you for 20 seconds. Blinking regularly is also critical for cleansing and lubricating the surface of the eye. Studies show that we tend to blink less when using a digital device, and the smaller the screen, the less we blink.
- Protect your eyes. Emergency rooms in the U.S. treat sports-related eye injuries every 13 minutes! Protect your peepers by wearing safety glasses, goggles and safety shields.
- Know your family’s eye health history. Many diseases and conditions are hereditary, so an accurate depiction of your family’s medical history can help your eye care professional monitor for conditions that you may be predisposed to developing.
- Quit smoking. Research has linked smoking to an increased risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, and optic nerve damage, all of which can lead to blindness.
- Clean your hands and contact lenses properly. To avoid infection, always wash hands thoroughly before touching your eyes or handling your contact lenses. Make sure to disinfect and replace contacts when appropriate.
It’s time to focus on your vision and allow Healthy Vision Month to encourage a more proactive approach to your eye health.
About the Author
Dr. E. Trevor Elmquist is the founder of Elmquist Eye Group. With more than 25 years of service to the Southwest Florida community, Elmquist Eye Group offers experienced doctors who are dedicated to patient care. Elmquist Eye Group’s team, led by Elmquist, Dr. Kate Wagner, Dr. Sarah Eccles-Brown and Dr. Nina Burt, stands ready to serve patients with knowledge and experience right here in Southwest Florida. For more information, visit www.Elmquist.com, call 239-936-2020 or stop by an Optical Boutique location in Fort Myers or Cape Coral.