After her last school day of December 2019, Ellie, age 12, walked into the kitchen. “Dad, today my teacher asked us to make predictions for 2020.”
“and…”, Dad replied.
Ellie smiled, then quipped, “I told her I couldn’t make predictions because I didn’t have 2020 vision yet.”
(With hindsight, little did any of us know what was coming in 2020!)
Six Tips for Proper Eye Care So You Can See Well in the Future
1. How often should an adult get their eyes examined by an eye doctor / ophthalmologist?
The American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends getting your vision checked every two years.
Most adults between the ages of 19 and 40 enjoy healthy eyes and good vision. The most common eye and vision problems for people in this age group are due to visual stress and eye injuries. By maintaining a healthy lifestyle and protecting your eyes from stress and injury, you can avoid many eye and vision problems.
Beginning in the early to mid-40s, many adults may start to have problems seeing clearly at close distances, especially when reading and working on the computer. This is among the most common problems adults develop between ages 41 to 60. This normal change in the eye’s focusing ability, called presbyopia, will continue to progress over time.
Additionally, see an eye doctor if you are having vision issues such as:
- Your eyes are red, dry, itchy, or you are seeing spots, flashes of light, or floaters.
- You have difficulty driving at night and seeing street signs in the dark.
- You experience eye strain, headaches and/or blurred vision after spending an extended amount of time in front of a computer screen.
- You get motion sick, dizzy, or have trouble following a moving target.
- You hold books or the newspaper further away from your face and squint or close one eye to read them clearly.
To check for eye diseases early on, when they’re easier to treat — and before they cause vision loss, the National Eye Institute (NEI) and American Academy of Ophthalmology recommend getting a baseline dilated eye exam at age 40 and then every 1-2 years if you are:
- over age 60
- an African-American over age 40
- from a family with a history of glaucoma
- have diabetes or high blood pressure
Here’s the eye disease risk breakdown by ethnic group.
2. Will staring at a computer screen, smartphone or TV for a long time hurt my eyes?
- Wear glasses with lens coatings to block short-wavelength visible light if you use digital devices for many hours during the day. Most digital devices and newer LED and fluorescent lights emit more wavelengths near the shorter, or bluer, part of the spectrum. High and continual exposure to these wavelengths can cause slow damage to the retina, which may result in problems like age-related macular degeneration later in life.
- Adjust your computer in your work space. Position the top of your computer monitor below eye level so you look slightly downward at the screen. This will help minimize strain on the eyes and the neck. Adjust the screen brightness so it is most comfortable for you. Wear anti-reflective lenses or using a glare reduction filter on your screen.
- Use proper lighting. Overhead lights can be harsh and often are brighter than necessary. Consider turning off some lights for a more comfortable lighting situation. Use an adjustable shaded lamp to provide specific task lighting as needed.
- Take breaks to rest your eyes like you would with muscles during a good workout. MedLinePlus, part of the National Institute of Health, recommends the 20-20-20 rule to reduce eyestrain; every 20 minutes, look away about 20 feet in front of you for 20 seconds.
3. Which sunglasses are best?
Too much sun exposure damages your eyes and raises your risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Protect your eyes with sunglasses from reputable manufacturers that block out UV-A and UV-B radiation. And yes, this means no cheap sunglasses or for that matter rhinestone shades.
Of note, UV-A and UV-B rays make it through clouds, so wearing sunglasses on cloudy days is not unreasonable. On the other hand, UV-C rays do not make it through the earth’s atmosphere, so you’ll only want to block those during space travel.
Contact lens wearers should still wear sunglasses because each lens does not cover your whole eye.
Wearing a wide-brimmed hat or cap is helpful to block UV radiation. It also reduces the amount of UV radiation that enter from above or around sunglasses, protecting against developing cancer on your eyelids.
4. Are orange carrots the best food to keep my eyes healthy?
Surprisingly, it turns out that yellow carrots are better!*
The NEI has completed two Age-Related Eye Disease studies on the effect of nutrients on eye health.
Based on those results, for optimal eye health, the NEI recommends a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and deep yellow and green leafy vegetables. Yellow vegetables contain the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which are in the same family of nutrients as beta-carotene. Lutein and zeaxanthin significantly reduce the risk of advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and its associated vision loss. (Orange carrots also contain lutein.). Good sources of lutein and zeaxanthin include:
- yellow carrots
- yellow squashes (acorn, butternut, etc.)
- yellow corn
- collard greens
Healthy yellow vegetables also lower blood pressure and reduce your risk of heart disease.
Eating fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, tuna, and halibut can also help your eyes. Omega-3 fatty acids are rich in docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which is important for eye health and visual function. People with dry eye syndrome (i.e., low tear production) can benefit from a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids because dry eye is linked to low levels of DHA.
Definitely avoid beta-carotene supplements because your body converts beta-carotene into Vitamin A which in high doses is toxic to the liver. Long-term daily Vitamin A supplementation also causes multiple other unhealthy side effects.
*Fortunately orange carrots are very healthy too. Thus, Keep.Health will not be changing the color of our logo! Like yellow carrots, orange carrots also provide the antioxidant lutein, plus nutrients to support metabolism, bone health and low blood pressure.
5. Can other diseases be detected through your eyes?
Your eyes may also become a key way to diagnose potential illnesses. In China, startup company AirDoc has scanned over 1 million people’s eyes to provide early detection of over 30 common diseases such as diabetes because artificial intelligence algorithms can see them in retinal scans. So your eye care is not just for your eye health! AirDoc plans to roll out to over a thousand optical retail stores in the next couple years.
6. What other eye health tips are important?
Other important factors to keep your eyes healthy include:
- Getting regular exercise
- Not smoking
- Wearing protective safety and sport goggles to prevent injury when your eyes are at risk from chemicals, hot air, sparks, radiation, flying objects and other athletes.
7. Can eyes be rejuvenated?
Yes. Nature published a 2020 paper showing it is possible to reactivate embryonic repair to restore vision in adult mice. Using three gene factors, a group led by David Sinclair successfully restored vision in mice by completely reversing aged patterns of DNA methylation.
The data indicate that mammalian tissues retain a record of youthful epigenetic information—encoded in part by DNA methylation—that can be accessed to improve tissue function and promote regeneration in vivo.
As your reward for reading this article, improve your vision by acquiring The Zen of Seeing by Frederick Franck to expand what you discover in our amazing world. It is a quick read, but forever memorable, leading to contemplative moments appreciating the intricate details, beauty and elegance of nature.