A question I hear fairly often from patients is, "What should I be doing to keep my eyes healthy?". Some answers to this question are fairly obvious (wear safety glasses when using a lawn mower), but others may require a little more thought. Since the eyes are affected by many systemic diseases and conditions, we can't think only about our eyes when we're thinking about eye health - we have to consider the overall health of our bodies. I've put together a list of things that we can all do to help keep our eyes healthy. This list doesn't include every step we can take for optimal eye health, but it's a good start.
1.Get your eyes examined at least once a year. Many treatable eye diseases, like glaucoma, have no symptoms in the early stages. By getting your eyes examined yearly, diseases like glaucoma can be detected and treated - often times saving patients from significant vision loss.
2.Where sunglasses when you're outside. We all know that sunglasses help protect our eyes from harmful UV light from the sun, which can contribute to cataracts. But did you ever think about how sunglasses can also help prevent skin cancers from forming on the eyelids? Or how sunglasses can prevent pterygia - potentially painful "eye callouses" that form from chronic wind and sun exposure?
3.Don't smoke. Smoking has been shown to be a risk factor for one of the most visually devastating eye diseases - macular degeneration. Not only is it a risk factor for the disease, but smoking has also been shown to speed up the progression of the disease once it starts. Smoking also exacerbates the symptoms of dry eye syndrome.
4.If you wear contact lenses, don't abuse them. Contact lenses are amazing things - they can help people see without the inconvenience of glasses. But they can also do significant damage to the eyes when not cared for properly. If you wear contacts, clean then properly and discard them as often as your eye doctor recommends.
5.Eat a healthy diet. Certain vegetables, such as spinach, kale, carrots, and pumpkins contain lutein, beta carotene, and vitamin C, which have been shown to be protective against macular degeneration and cataracts. Eating a healthy diet also reduces the risk of diabetes, which can potentially cause visually debilitating diabetic retinopathy.
Until next time,
Clint Taylor, OD