On the long list of health nightmares, one of the top things Americans fear of losing is their vision. While it may seem like a bad dream, the truth of the matter is that there is an estimated 61 million people who are at high risk for loss of sight. As the eyes are very delicate, they sometimes do not age well so it is of the utmost importance to keep them healthy. To know how to take care of your eyesight, it is important to know how the eye truly works down to the details:
- Cornea: where sight begins, where the light bounces off whatever you are looking at to make the image clearer
- Iris: the colored part of your eye, not just what makes up your looks, but it oversees changing the size of the pupil as well
- Pupil: the opening in the center of the iris, it grows wider when light enters and narrows in when there is too much light which allows up to see objects day or night
- Lens: located right behind the iris and controls focus in your eyes so you can look at something from far away or close up
- Vitreous Humor: located behind the lens and retina, helps keep the eye rounded and nourished
- Retina: The light that comes in through the cornea and through the lens winds up at this tissue in the back of the eye and transforms light into electrical pulses. It is responsible for our central vision which gives us the ability to see what is directly in front of us
- Optic Nerve: where electrical signals travel through the million-plus fivers of the nerve to enter the brain which identifies the pulses as whatever object we are looking at
How to Keep Your Eyes Healthy
Eating Foods That Improve Eye Health: There are many foods that directly benefit your eye health containing lots of Vitamin A or the eye-friendly antioxidant lutein. Some foods which are great for eyesight are squash, pumpkin, carrots, and dark leafy greens such as kale, spinach, and collard greens.
No Smoking: Not smoking or quitting smoking does lower the risk of not only lung or heart disease but also connects with macular degeneration, optic nerve damage, and cataracts.
Shield your eyes: Wearing sunglasses is extremely beneficial in maintaining healthy eyes, even in the winter. Sunglasses will help protect your eyes from the sun’s ultraviolet rays, exposure which can lead to cataracts and some cancers. The key to finding good sunglasses is being sure to find large lenses which have 99%-00% blocking of UVA and UVB radiation. In addition to the protection from the sun, it’s important to utilize safety goggles or eye guards when necessary.
Keep Your Eyes Clean: Bacteria can get in causing infections and uncomfortable symptoms like swelling, pain, itching, and/or difficulty seeing. There are many precautions you can take to avoid such issues like throwing away any old eye makeup, replacing mascara every three months, making sure your hands are clean when putting contacts in, and removing your contacts at night because it ups your risk tenfold because it gives bacteria time to multiply.
Breaking Up Your Screen Time: In this day in age sometimes this can seem more difficult, but staring at a phone, computer screens, or TVs can cause blurry vision, dry eyes, or headaches. As a rule of thumb, use the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, look 20 feet ahead for 20 seconds. This will help your eyes relax and rewet.
Have Eye Drops on Hand: Eyedrops can help with many different ailments including soothing dry eyes or calming itchy eyes from allergies or irritants. Pro-Tip: store any preservative-free single-use artificial tears in your refrigerator, this will provide a coolness with a little extra bit of soothing relief.
Monitor Any Changes To Your Eyes: If anything seems different or off, be sure to take note. See any dark specks drifting in your line of sight? Those are floaters which can occur when clear gel clumps behind your eyes. These aren’t typically dangerous but there is nothing you can do to get rid of them besides waiting it out. Starting to notice that the white of your eye is red or inside is swollen, itchy, or has a crusty discharge, it could very well be pink eye. Being vigilant about handwashing helps to avoid spreading it to your other eye or other people. The healing process could take 7-10 days to see yourself back to normal.
Protect your Eyes from These 5 Common Vision Problems:
- Refractive Errors: This implies farsightedness or nearsightedness, commonly as astigmatism which is a distorted vision at all distances, and presbyopia which is the loss of close-up focusing ability. Age, genetics, and gender could play a role in eye issues – women 40 years and over experience 14% more refractive issues than men at that age.
What can help Refractive Errors: glasses, contact lenses, or laser surgery can enhance your vision
- Cataract: This is a vision-blurring problem that is caused by proteins in the lenses clumping together forming clouds, and typically appears in older individuals. Diabetes, lots of sun time, smoking, taking steroids, or drinking alcohol can up your risk for cataracts. The first signs of cataracts tend to be: colors looking faded, seeing a halo around a light, or the inability to see at night.
What Can Help Cataracts: If the cataract is small, magnifying glasses while reading or replacing lightbulbs with brighter ones can be helpful. If a cataract is too big, often time the cure is outpatient surgery to implant an artificial lens.
- Macular Degeneration: As we get older, macula might develop deposits or fill with leaky blood vessels, impairing vision – often you can see a black or gray spot in your central vision but still can observe things in the periphery. The macula helps us see in front of us. Around 2 million Americans have age-related macular degeneration.
What Can Help Macular Degeneration: Treatments have been proven to slow down any progression and help save sight which is why it is so important to diagnose it early. If diagnosed early, you can take supplements packed with vitamin E and C, lutein, and other nutrients to slow down the damage.
- Glaucoma: This is caused by built-up pressure within the eye which can cause damage to the optic nerve over time. This can impact peripheral vision first with total blindness as a potential result.
What Helps Glaucoma: Lasers, medicine, or surgery can help with any progression of the disease
- Diabetic Retinopathy: Eye problems could be caused by complications of Type 2 diabetes as high blood pressure causes damage in retinal vessels over time. If you have diabetes it is important to exercise, eat right, take all prescribed medications, check your blood glucose levels regularly, and get a yearly dilated retinal exam.
What Helps Diabetic Retinopathy: In addition to maintaining habits which support balanced blood sugar- lasers, injections, or surgery can be effective but this can only help before the loss of sight making the initial diagnosis more important.
Contact your eye doctor today for more tips to help maintain your eye health.
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