There are many different things you can do to help promote eye health and protect your vision. As we get older, the risk of developing eye disease increases, so it is important to stay up to date to keep your eyes healthy.
Seeing your optometrist regularly for a comprehensive eye exam is very important, but there are several other lifestyle changes you can implement to ensure you are keeping track of and managing your eye health.
Get Regular Checkups
It has been recognized for a long time that regular eye exams help keep our eyes healthy and can catch issues before they progress. Certain conditions may not always be noticeable to the untrained eye, so visiting your optometrist for guidance is always important. Along with catching any conditions or diseases in the early stages, they can test your vision to ensure your prescription (if you need one) is up to date.
Most adults should have their eyes examined at least every two years depending on your age range. If you are curious about the frequency you should be visiting your optometrist, visit The Canadian Association of Optometrists health library website for more information.
Adjust Your Diet
The food we put in our bodies is the fuel we have to survive. Subsequently, different types of food have differing levels of nutrients, some of which we need more of and some less. Similarly, our eyes benefit when we eat certain nutrients or vitamins, so it is important to keep a balanced diet.
What Nutrients Should I Focus On?
Keeping specific nutrients and vitamins on the mind can make grocery shopping easy when you’re trying to focus on your diet and eye health.
Lutein and Zeaxanthin
Lutein and zeaxanthin are pigments found in the leaves of plants and egg yolks. They are also found in the human eye and are thought to function as a light filter that protects the eye from sunlight damage.
The best sources of lutein and zeaxanthin are green leafy vegetables such as kale or cooked spinach, other green or yellow vegetables like corn, or egg yolks.
Vitamin C helps the body form and maintain connective tissue which includes the collagen found in the cornea of the eye. It also helps maintain strong bones, healthy skin and blood vessels, and may reduce the risk of cataracts or vision loss with long-term use.
Foods that are high in vitamin C are sweet red and green peppers, strawberries, broccoli, and citrus fruits like oranges. Cooked or canned versions of these foods may decrease their vitamin C content, so it is best to source fresh, raw ingredients.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
As humans, we cannot produce certain essential fatty acids, which are essential for the normal functioning of cells, muscles, nerves, and organs. Incorporating Omega-3s into your diet can protect eyes from macular degeneration or dry eye syndrome, and may also help promote proper drainage of intraocular fluid which can lead to glaucoma.
Wild-caught cold-water fish, such as sardines, salmon, herring, and tuna, are great sources of Omega-3 fatty acids. If your diet does not allow you to eat fish, you can source Omega-3 fatty acids through supplements or fish oil capsules, found in many drug stores or pharmacies.
Additionally, you can find Omega-3s in flaxseeds, walnuts, and dark green leafy vegetables.
If you can make adjustments to your diet to incorporate certain vitamins and nutrients, your eye health will greatly benefit. However, you may find it difficult to incorporate all of the nutrients your body may need into your diet. In this case, taking supplements is an easy way to ensure you are getting all of the vitamins to support your eye health.
Vitamin A helps to maintain a clear cornea and is a component of rhodopsin, a protein in the eyes that allows you to see in low light conditions. It is also suggested that vitamin A can help protect against cataracts and macular degeneration.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant that protects your cells from free radicals, which are harmful, unstable molecules. It is believed that many eye conditions could be associated with a lack of antioxidants and their protection from free radicals.
Vitamins B6, B9, and B12
These vitamins taken together can lower levels of homocysteine in the body, which is a protein that can cause inflammation and lead to macular degeneration.
More research is needed on the effects of certain vitamins and your eye health, but staying up to date on what your body may be in need of can help ward off certain conditions and illnesses.
Smoking is an addictive habit that is extremely detrimental to your body’s health and harms all of the organs in your body, including your eyes. Smoking is the single most preventable cause of death and disease in Canada. Along with the increased risk of well-known diseases such as cancer and emphysema, smoking can cause blindness and other eye-related conditions.
Uveitis in smokers is much more common than non-smokers, causing harm to the structures of the eyes through inflammation of the uvea (the eye’s middle layer). Uveitis can lead to glaucoma, cataracts, and vision loss.
Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD)
Macular degeneration causes the center of your vision to blur while the side or peripheral vision remains unaffected and usually happens due to ageing. However, smokers and individuals that have had extensive exposure to UV rays are considered high-risk for this condition.
Cataracts cloud the lenses of the eyes and usually occur due to ageing, genetics, injury, or related disease. As with AMD, smoking and UV exposure can increase the risk of developing cataracts.
Diabetic retinopathy occurs when the blood vessels in the retina become swollen and damaged and is usually related to diabetes. If not treated in the early stages, diabetic retinopathy can lead to blindness. Smoking greatly increases the risk of developing this illness.
The smoke released from tobacco products is a drying agent that hinders the eye’s natural moisture, causing dry eye symptoms. These symptoms are magnified when you wear contact lenses. Additionally, tobacco products are full of chemicals that can cause cellular damage which leads to delayed healing rates and infections.
If you need help quitting smoking, there are plenty of resources available to you to help you find something that will work for you.
Exercising regularly can help you manage your weight, prevent high blood pressure, and helps the heart work efficiently. High blood pressure can lead to vision impairment, and maintaining a healthy weight can prevent diabetes and other health concerns.
Ocular perfusion pressure is the pressure causing blood to flow to the eyes. Regular physical activity has a long term beneficial impact on low ocular perfusion pressure, which is a significant risk for glaucoma.
Follow Proper Screen Time Rules
If you spend a lot of time staring at digital screens, it is important to keep your eyes in mind. Too much screen time can cause Computer Vision Syndrome (Digital Eye Strain).
If you cannot see the screen clearly, you may be causing your eyes undue strain by not wearing the correct prescription. Consult your optometrist for an eye wellness exam to keep your screen time usage comfortable.
There are a few tips and tricks to lower your risk of Computer Vision Syndrome and generally make your screen time more comfortable and enjoyable.
Screen Time Tips
Keep your computer or screen positioned about an arm’s length from your eyes, angled slightly downward.
Set colour and contrast tones to suit your environment, and turn on the blue light filter if applicable.
Dim lights and source an anti-reflective screen cover to reduce glare.
Use the 20-20-20 rule; every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away from 20 seconds to help give your eyes a break.
Symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome
If you start to experience symptoms such as headaches, sore eyes, dry eyes, blurry vision, or double vision, consult your optometrist as soon as possible for treatment options and preventative measures.