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.
- over age 60
- an African-American over age 40
- from a family with a history of glaucoma
- have diabetes or high blood pressure
2. Will staring at a computer screen, smartphone or TV for a long time hurt my eyes?Yes.
- 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
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 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. In 2021, the CARE (Comprehensive AI Retinal Expert) system was developed by a coalition of international researchers, improving the process. The Calico and Google Brain team has created retinal scans which determine cardiovascular risk. So your eye care is not just for your eye health! These technologies are coming soon to eye care centers in China and across Asia.
6. What other eye health tips are important?Other important factors to keep your eyes healthy include:
- Getting regular exercise. 30 minutes per day can reduce intraocular pressure and lower your risk of some types of glaucoma by 73%.
- 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.