There is a lot of focus on health and wellness these days. I think this is wonderful! We do things like exercise, eat healthy foods and put on sunscreen, but what can we do to keep our eyes healthy?
First things first: Get checked out. You have to know what kind of shape your eyes are in right now in order to best know how to keep them healthy! A vision screening at work or at a health fair is better than nothing; however, a lot of things can be missed without a complete dilated exam (when eye drops are used to make your pupils very big).
Another important task is to learn your family’s eye health history. Do people in your family have eye problems like macular degeneration, glaucoma or retinal detachments? Knowing this and telling your eye care provider will help them advise you on specific things to look for, watch out for, avoid or encourage.
You may be thinking, “Cataracts run in my family.” Well, the good news is that cataracts run in everyone’s family. It is merely an age-related change of the lens in the eye, so that statement is basically like saying you have a family history of people growing older. Cataracts are not a sign of eyes being unhealthy. They are merely a sign of having celebrated plenty of birthdays.
An often overlooked aspect of eye health is sun protection. We are very serious about sun protection here at the Prisma Health Eye Institute and have written about it in previous posts. UV light not only accelerates cataract formation but can hasten the development of macular degeneration. Make sure the sunglasses you purchase block 99-100% of UV-A and UV-B radiation.
If you are a contact lens wearer, take good care of your contacts. I am shocked to find that many people will sleep in their contacts, try to make them last longer than recommended, leave the same solution in their contact lens wells for days, clean their cases and lenses with water, and not wash their hands when they remove or replace them. When I ask clients about these practices, I often hear, “Well I’ve always done that and I’m OK.” I liken this to driving without a seatbelt. Sure, you are usually going to be fine. And then one day, you are not. Poor contact lens hygiene dramatically increases your risk of having a vision-threatening infection in the cornea (the clear front of the eye).
Lastly, don’t start smoking, and if you are already a smoker, please add “improving my eye health” as another reason to quit. Aside from the obvious external irritation of the eyes from cigarette smoke that can worsen dry eyes and allergies, smoking affects the inside of the eyes as well. It can make cataracts come at a younger age and increases your risk of macular degeneration.
For more information about how to keep your eyes healthy, call us at the Prisma Health Eye Institute for an appointment, and we will start by getting to know your eyes with a complete exam.