Oh say, can you see? If you experience eye pain, irritation, redness, itching or blurry vision, you’re not alone. From myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness) and astigmatism to macular degeneration, glaucoma and cataracts, most people are likely to experience an eye problem or vision issue at some point, and the potential for problems increases with age.
Here are five points to keep in mind for optimal ocular health:
- Get regular eye exams
The best thing you can do to keep your eyes healthy is to maintain a routine exam schedule. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends having a baseline eye exam at age 40 (sooner if you have a family history of eye disease or are having any issues) performed by a medically trained physician, and follow-up exams on a regular schedule as determined by the doctor. A professional eye exam should include a vision screening, eye pressure check and possible dilation to examine the inside of the eye.
- Some medical diagnoses can affect your vision
Diabetes, high blood pressure, auto-immune diseases and certain other diagnoses carry the potential to affect your vision, mainly depending on how well you control the disease and how long you’ve had it.
“Many times, there are no symptoms until advanced stages,” says Tanvi M. Shah, MD, a Comprehensive Ophthalmologist and Cataract Surgeon at Greater Baltimore Medical Center (GBMC). “Sometimes, you might experience inflammation, dryness or blurred vision from retinal swelling or cataracts. Patients with any of these diagnoses should see an eye doctor regularly and follow up as instructed to prevent or control further damage.”
- Daily use of digital screens can affect your eyes
In today’s electronic age, it’s nearly impossible to get through the day without using a laptop, tablet, phone or other digital device, but too much screen time can cause eye strain, increased risk of myopia and the potential for dry eyes. If you spend a lot of time in front of an electronic screen, take breaks at 20-minute intervals and focus on something in the distance for at least 20 seconds to give your eyes a quick rest.
- Don’t overuse over-the-counter drops
It’s easy to squeeze in a few OTC drops when your eyes are feeling red and tired; just make sure to read the label and directions.
“The OTC drops I recommend most for regular use are artificial tears for lubrication,” Dr. Shah says. “OTC medications for red eyes tend to contain chemicals that create a white appearance, but don’t address the cause of the redness. And the redness can actually increase after you stop using the eye drops.”
For allergy-related eye redness and itching, Dr. Shah recommends looking for a product that includes an antihistamine and mast cell stabilizer.
- Some foods can help support eye health
Eating carrots and other foods rich in vitamins C and E, zinc, lutein and omega-3 fatty acids may reduce your chances of adverse eye conditions as you age. An Age-Related Eye Diseases Study funded by the National Eye Institute indicates a link between these nutrients and lowered risks for macular degeneration, cataracts and dry eyes. For the healthiest eyes, try to work citrus fruits, nuts, whole grains, cold-water fish and leafy green vegetables into your daily diet.
This webpage is for informational purposes only and not intended as medical advice or a substitute for a consultation with a professional healthcare provider.