How often in life do we find ourselves not appreciating something until it’s slipping away, or completely gone?
We often think of a sentiment like that in reference to the presence of loved ones. But, do you think in those terms when it comes to your body, to your health?
Generally speaking, I would say that the majority of us would have to admit that we take basic functions gifted by our bodies for granted.
But, how would your world change without the use of your senses? How would your world change without the sense of sight, or even with it greatly diminished?
Are you doing everything you can to protect your eyes for both now and in the years to come?
Or, could you be making common mistakes that are damaging your vision even now?
Common Mistakes That Damage Eyesight
Avoiding Eye Exams
Some say the eyes are the window to the soul. And, while I’m not sure there’s scientific evidence confirming that, there is evidence to show that the health (or lack of health) of your eyes can indicate other conditions such as diabetes, autoimmune diseases, or high blood pressure.
Your eyes also lack pain receptors, meaning that you could actually have a problem (like a tumor for instance) and be unaware of it.
Many eye diseases do not have initial symptoms, so by the time you actually experience symptoms, serious damage could have already taken place.
All of these things above tell us that neglecting regular visits to an eye doctor (optometrist or ophthalmologist) can be detrimental to the health of our eyes.
Waiting until you notice a loss in vision, may mean you’ve waited too long.
Rubbing Your Eyes
The mucus membranes in our eyes are dirt and germ magnets. So, if you have a habit of touching or rubbing your eyes, you are transferring that dirt and bacteria into your eye.
Excessive rubbing can also cause inflammation and may even damage blood vessels in the eye.
If you need to rub your eye, do so gently, with clean hands, and be sure your eyelids are closed.
Do’s and Don’ts of Contacts
Some individuals find that contacts can provide great ease and even comfort as opposed to wearing glasses. However, with that ease and comfort comes greater responsibility when it comes to eye care.
If you wear contact lenses, be aware of the following ways that you could be damaging your eyes:
- Not cleaning and disinfecting contact lenses
- Cleaning or washing contact lenses with tap water (any contaminants in the tap water are then transferred to your eye which can cause infection)
- Not replacing your lens case every 3 months (bacteria can accumulate over time in the case)
- Wearing contacts even while your eyes are infected or inflamed
- Not washing your hands before handling your contacts
- Sleeping in your contacts (robs your eyes of needed oxygen)
- Showering in your contacts (microbes commonly found in water can attach to lenses causing infection)
- Swimming in your contacts (just as with washing lenses with tap water or showering with them in, contaminants in the water can cause infection)
- Using old solution (using lenses or solution past their date may not be effective in cleaning or disinfecting)
From computers, to phones, to tablets, to televisions, it’s easy to spend a lot of time in front of a screen.
If you find yourself staring at a screen for hours on end throughout your day, whether you realize it or not, you are straining your eyes.
Any digital device that you are using emits something called blue light. This can both damage your eyes and disrupt sleep patterns.
Did you know that when you strain your eyes, for instance while working at your computer, you actually blink less. Less blinking can make your eyes dry.
Always try to sit at least an arm’s length from your screen and practice the triple 20 rule. For every 20 minutes spent in front of a digital screen, focus on an object at least 20 feet away for a total of 20 seconds.
Skipping the Shades
Skipping sunglasses can wreak havoc on your eyes. While there certainly are some stylish shades out there, they truly are not just an accessory.
And, they’re not just for sunny days at the beach in the summertime either.
Ultraviolet (UV) light is present on sunny days, cloudy days, chilly fall and winter days, and warm spring and summer days.
Sunglasses help you to avoid UV damage from the sun which can lead to cataracts, macular degeneration, cancers in the eye or on the eyelid, or even corneal sunburn.
Polarized lenses that block both UV-A and UV-B rays are recommended.
For the Ladies
- If you’re not removing your make-up as part of your nightly, pre-bedtime, routine you could be damaging your eyes.Sleeping in your make-up can cause the glands surrounding your eyes to become clogged leading to styes, inflammation, and even infection.
- If you’re not updating your eye make-up periodically, you could be prone to infection.Bacteria can accumulate on make-up and applicators over time, which can then be transferred to your eye, causing infection.It is recommended that eye make-up be replaced every three months, especially products like mascara which are used on eyelashes which commonly have bacteria present on them.
From sports to job sites, to work around the house, there are many times when we should be wearing protective eyewear but fail to do so.
Studies show that simply wearing protective eyewear while playing contact sports, working with wood, mowing the yard, or while in the presence of various chemicals could prevent up to 90% of injuries sustained to the eyes in accidents.
And, since close to half of all eye injuries happen at home, be careful not to assume that just because you are at home that you are immune to such eye injuries.
Mowing the yard, gardening, cleaning with harsh chemicals, woodworking, and playing contact sports even in your backyard are all activities that are recommended to be done with protective eyewear.
Some of the main side effects we hear in regards to the detriment of smoking include cancer and heart disease.
But, did you realize how much damage you could be doing to your eyes if you are a smoker?
Research shows that smoking doubles the risk of cataracts, doubles the chance of developing dry eyes, and increases the onset of early-age macular degeneration.
How To Protect Your Vision As You Age?
Obviously, avoiding all of the damaging practices listed above will help to protect your vision. Let’s review them before listing a few other tips to ensure optimal eye health.
- Be sure to see your eye doctor regularly (biannually unless otherwise recommended)
- Avoid rubbing and touching your eyes
- Practice proper cleansing and disinfection of contacts, and avoid sleeping, showering or swimming with them in
- Avoid excessive screen time (blue light exposure)
- Wear polarized UV-A UV-B sunglasses year round
- Remove makeup before going to bed at night and replace makeup regularly
- Wear protective eye-wear during activities where eye injuries are common
- Don’t smoke
Besides incorporating the practices listed above, the primary ways to protect your vision as you age rest in diet and exercise.
Are you surprised? Of course not!
These two things play such a vital role in our overall health, and our eyes are certainly included in that.
Studies show that those individuals who lead active lifestyles suffer less loss of vision with age than those who do not.
Being physically active also helps maintain a healthy body weight which decreases the risk of glaucoma, It can also lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of diabetes, two diseases that are detrimental to eye health.
Eating a diet filled with nutritious foods can help maintain overall health within the body. But, there are some specific foods that are recommended to promote optimal eye health.
Consider adding the following to your diet for the health of your eyes:
- Bell peppers
- Dark leafy greens
- Sweet potatoes
- Chia seeds
- Wild caught salmon
There are some eye diseases or conditions that benefit from specific nutrition. For instance, macular degeneration.
For people over the age of 60, macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss.
Studies show that the following foods can aid in macular degeneration prevention:
- Dark leafy greens (spinach, kale, swiss chard, collard and mustard greens)
- Whole grains
- Plant based oils
- Fish and poultry
Cataracts are another concern regarding eye health as we age. Over 50% of Americans over the age of 80 have cataracts.
The following foods may help prevent the development of cataracts:
- Leafy greens
- Orange peppers
- Citrus fruits
Oftentimes we are unable to get all of the nutrients we need through diet alone. This is where dietary supplements can be beneficial.
Consider adding the following supplements to your daily routine to support the health of your eyes:
- Vitamins A, B1, C, and E
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids
And, let’s not forget proper hydration. Also a part of proper nutrition, hydration can go a long way to keep your eyes healthy.
From avoiding damage, to facilitating health, you can protect and preserve your eyesight, for in the words of Helen Keller, “Of all the senses, sight must be the most delightful.”
And if you’re interested in doing more…
P.S. If you’re frustrated because your vision isn’t what it used to be… but you don’t want glasses or contacts or eye surgery…
There is an alternative.
Pro baseball players use it… Optometrists across the nation now recommend it…
And University of Georgia scientists recently reported it sharpens far-distance, near-distance, and low-light vision.
One person even appears to have reversed macular degeneration!
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