Did you know that vision loss is among the top ten causes of disability for adults in the United States? Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take now to protect your eyes and make sure they are as healthy as they can be. Michele Schlagheck, OD, ProMedica Physicians Vision Associates – Toledo, shares how.
Exercise daily and watch your weight.
Just like the rest of your body, your eyes need a balanced diet and daily movement to be able to function at their best. Being overweight and having elevated blood pressure and cholesterol levels can cause eye problems, including diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration and age-related cataracts.
“Eating the right foods and getting enough exercise is an often-overlooked form of preventive care. Especially when good nutrition and exercise can slow or prevent a variety of age-related eye problems altogether,” shares Dr. Schlagheck.
Carrots aren’t the only food for eye health. Eat dark, leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale and collard greens. Also enjoy nuts, berries and cold-water fish like salmon, tuna and halibut to maintain good eye health.
Know your family’s eye health history.
Speak with your family members to find out what kind of vision issues they may have — some might not be obvious. Hereditary diseases include age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, corneal dystrophies, color blindness, optic atrophy and retinitis pigmentosa (the most common inherited disease). There’s even been genetic links to near-sightedness, far-sightedness, astigmatism and strabismus (when eye muscles don’t work together resulting in one eye turning in one direction and the other eye another). Share your family’s eye history with your eye doctor so that they can watch for signs of anything developing over time.
Wear eye protection.
Whether it’s sunny or cloudy, wearing sunglasses is one of the easiest ways that you can protect your eye health. Sunglasses help protect your eyes from harmful UV rays, which are present even on cloudy days. Choose sunglasses that offer both UVA and UVB light protection and are polarized. Exposure to UV light can speed up cataract formation and macular degeneration, damaging your vision down the road.
You should also avoid tanning beds as they expose you to a high level of UV light. If you do choose to use a tanning facility, make sure you wear protective eyewear. It’s best to buy your own so they’ll fit your eyes snugly. If you do use a facility’s goggles, make sure they’re sterilized so you don’t risk getting an infection from another customer.
Additionally, be sure to wear protective eyewear when playing sports, performing home renovation projects or doing yard work. Protective eyewear will help stop stray debris from flying back into your eyes. Fog-free goggles work great for all these situations.
Don’t skip your dilated annual eye exam.
Eye exams are important for eye health and overall health. You may think that an eye exam is not necessary if your eyesight is good, but often eye issues are not discoverable by the naked eye – you may not even have any issues with your eyesight! The only way to check if your eyes are healthy is to have your eye doctor perform a dilated eye exam.
Dr. Schlagheck explains the importance of receiving dilated eye exams: “Instead of looking through a keyhole, we are able to open the door and actually look in when eyes are dilated. We have a much wider field of view to look for any problems.”
When your eyes are dilated, your eye doctor can peer into the peripheral part of your retina. They will check for abnormalities such as melanoma, discover retinal tears before they turn into detachments, detect any optic swelling, notice conditions related to hypertension, diabetes and thyroid conditions, and even detect toxicities to medications or supplements. Many eye issues cannot be cured, but progression can be slowed, or even stopped if caught early enough.
Your eyes help you experience the world around you – don’t take them for granted.
Learn more about eye care and protection on ProMedica’s website.