May is Healthy Vision Month and an ideal opportunity for Geneva Eye Clinic to share simple steps to help you protect your vision.
Even if your eyes appear to be healthy, it’s important to know that you could have an underlying problem and not even know it. This is because many eye diseases do not have warning signs. The good news is, there are steps you can adopt to safeguard your vision health.
Step #1: Get a Comprehensive Dilated Eye Exam
First and foremost, a comprehensive dilated eye exam is the single, most valuable thing you can do for your eye health. This dilated eye exam is the only way to check for many eye diseases. Catching these problems early on means it will be easier to treat. How often you need a dilated eye exam will depend on your age and your risk factor.
A dilated eye exam is recommended every 1 to 2 years if you:
- Are over age 60
- Are African American and over age 40
- Have a family history of glaucoma
Also, if you have diabetes or high blood pressure, ask your eye doctor how often you need an exam. Most people with diabetes or high blood pressure need to get a dilated eye exam at least once a year.
Step #2: Understand Your Risk for Eye Disease
Knowing your family’s health history and sharing this information with your eye doctor is very valuable. Some eye diseases and conditions can be genetic, like age-related macular degeneration or glaucoma. Be sure you tell your eye doctor if any eye diseases run in your family.
Beside a family history, you can also be at higher risk for some eye disease due to:
- Older age
- Being overweight
- Your ethnicity, including African American, Hispanic, or Native American
- Diabetes or high blood pressure
Step #3: Maintaining Good Health
Protecting your overall health can be very important for your eyes. Having a healthy diet and being active can lower your risk for disease and conditions that can lead to eye or vision problems, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
Eating healthy foods can be good for your eyes. Try including foods like dark leafy greens, such as spinach, kale and collard greens, and eating fish that is high in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon, tuna and halibut.
It’s also important to have an active lifestyle. Having a fitness routine or staying physically active can lower your risk of health conditions that can cause eye health or vision problems, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Finally, quit smoking, it’s not just bad for your lungs, it can affect your eyes as well. Smoking increases your risk of diseases, like macular degeneration and cataracts, and can harm the optic nerve.
Step #4: Protect Your Eyes
Be sure to practice simple eye health behaviors, such as:
- Wearing sunglasses: Protect your eyes from the sun, even on cloudy days, by wearing sunglasses that block 99 to 100% of both UVA and UVB radiation.
- Wear protective eyewear: Certain activities, like playing sports or doing construction work or home repairs, can pose a threat to your vision. Be sure to wear the appropriate eyewear for each activity.
- Give your eyes a rest: Looking at a computer screen for long periods of time can tire your eyes. Rest your eyes by practicing the 20/20/20 rule—break every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.
- If you wear contacts, take steps to prevent eye infections: Always wash your hands before you put your contact lenses in or take them out. Be sure to disinfect your contact lenses and replace them regularly.
For greater detail on eye health resources, visit the National Eye Institute website.