People in their 20s or 30s are likely more concerned with launching careers and families than with their eye health. But this is the exact time of life to take action to preserve vision. That’s because most vision problems are preventable.
Vision loss doesn’t have to be a natural part of getting older. Study after study has shown that exercise and a diet rich in a variety of fruits and vegetables can protect against blinding eye diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma. Taking simple steps can also help prevent certain types of eye cancer as well as work- and sports-related eye injuries. During the month of May, the American Academy of Ophthalmology is sharing valuable information about how to take care of your vision.
Follow these tips from the nation’s ophthalmologists — physicians specializing in medical and surgical eye care — to help set yourself up for a lifetime of seeing well.
- Wear sunglasses (even when it’s cloudy). Long-term exposure to the sun without proper protection can increase the risk of eye disease, including cataract, macular degeneration, growths on the eye, and a rare form of eye cancer. Wear sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of both UVA and UVB radiation.
- Exercise. Regular physical activity can protect you from serious eye diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma.
- Stop smoking. Smoking increases the risk for eye diseases such as cataract and age-related macular degeneration. Smoking also raises the risk for cardiovascular diseases. which can indirectly influence your eye health. Tobacco smoke, including second-hand smoke, also worsens dry eye.
- Protect your eyes at work and at play. Every year, thousands of people in the United States get a serious work-related eye injury or sports-related eye injury. Wearing protective eyewear can prevent most of these injuries. To make sure you have the right kind of protective eyewear and you’re using it correctly, talk with your eyecare professional.
- Be aware of eye fatigue. If you spend a lot of time at the computer or staring at your phone, you may forget to blink — and that can tire out your eyes. Try using the 20–20–20 rule throughout the day: Every 20 minutes, look away from the screens and focus about 20 feet in front of you for 20 seconds. Eye fatigue won’t damage your vision, but if it persists, it can be a sign something else is wrong. You may have dry eye, presbyopia, or spectacles with lenses that are not properly centered.
- Take proper care of contact lenses. Sleeping, showering and swimming in contact lenses increases your risk for a potentially blinding eye infection. Learn how to properly care for contact lenses.
- Know your family history. Certain eye diseases can be inherited. If you have a close relative with macular degeneration, you have a 50 percent chance of developing this condition. A family history of glaucoma increases your glaucoma risk by four to nine times. Talk to family members about their eye conditions. It can help you and your ophthalmologist evaluate your risk.
“It’s important to take care of your eyes, just like you take care of the rest of your body,” said Rebecca J. Taylor, M.D., clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “Take simple steps now to make sure you have a lifetime of good vision.”
The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends adults under age 40 have a comprehensive medical eye exam every five to 10 years. To learn more ways to keep your eyes healthy, visit the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s EyeSmart® website.