Eye Protection

It’s clear that one vital action you can take to protect your eyes is to have them examined by an eyecare provider through an annual comprehensive eye exam. Eye exams can provide important clues and early warning signs for diseases including high blood pressure, diabetes, elevated cholesterol, and even life-threatening brain tumors.

However, self care is an important first line of defense when it comes to protecting your overall eye health. The easiest way to treat eye and vision problems is to prevent them from occurring in the first place – preserving your vision means actively working to maintain healthy eyes. Here is some advice that will benefit your vision healthare some tips for doing just that – and most of them benefit not just your eyes, but your overall health.

Improve Your Diet

Research has found that people who do not eat the recommended daily allowance of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains increase their risk for developing cataracts. Also, dark, leafy greens and foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish and nuts, can help prevent vision problems, according to the American Optometric Association.

Living healthy starts with eating healthy.  Research indicates that foods with the following ingredients nourish your eyes, and may help prevent eye diseases that often emerge later in life.

  • Vitamin A is a fundamental ingredient for healthy eyes. Your retina needs Vitamin A to maintain the light-sensitive cells in your retina. Vitamin A deficiency is a leading cause of blindness in the world. Vitamin A is also essential for your night vision, and helps prevent dry eye syndrome.  Foods that are rich in Vitamin A include carrots, sweet potatoes, cantaloupes and apricots.
  • Vitamins E and C contain antioxidants that are essential for preventing cell damage in your eyes, and may lower your risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts. They also help prevent heart disease and cancer. Foods that contain high levels of Vitamin C include citrus fruits, kiwi fruit, strawberries, tomatoes, red and green peppers, and broccoli. Vitamin E is found in almonds, sunflower seeds, olive oil and avocadoes.
  • Zinc helps your body absorb Vitamin A and supports antioxidants. Good sources of zinc include beans and lentils, meats and seafood, dairy products, and eggs.
  • Lutein and zeaxanthin are important to maintain retinal health. Because they are both plant pigments, they can be found in many colorful fruits and vegetables. These include green, leafy vegetables like kale and spinach. Broccoli, asparagus, raspberries, papayas, peaches and mangoes are also good sources of lutein and zeaxanthin.
  • Studies have shown that people whose diets are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids are less likely to develop age-related macular degeneration (AMD)1. They also support healthy tear function, which can help prevent dry eye syndrome. Cold-water fish like salmon, tuna, sardines, halibut and trout are rich in Omega-3.

End Tobacco Use

As everyone knows, smoking is bad for your heart and lungs. It is also bad for your eyes. Smoking can dramatically increase your risk of AMD2, cataracts3,4, Uveitis (an inflammatory diseases that can lead to blindness)5, diabetes (which can lead to diabetic retinopathy)6, and dry eye syndrome7.

Exercise Regularly

The benefits of regular exercise for overall health are well known.  It can also help you maintain your vision health by lowering your risk of developing a variety of eye problems.

  • Glaucoma usually occurs as a result of excessive intraocular pressure (pressure created by the fluids in your eye), which can damage your optic nerve.  Regular exercise can help lower intraocular pressure, and help prevent other risk factors for glaucoma like high blood pressure and diabetes. One study showed that physically active people had a 73 percent lower risk of developing glaucoma8.
  • Diabetic retinopathy is a complication stemming from diabetes that can cause blindness.  Studies have shown that physical activity can reduce the risk of developing the most common type of diabetes (type 2)9
  • Exercise reduces eye pressure and helps your body process eye-healthy foods (see above) that nourish the retina and guard against Age-related macular degeneration (AMD). One study showed that walking 12 blocks every day reduced the risk of developing AMD by 30% over 15 years10.

Keep Bacteria Away from Your Eyes

One area that people don’t tend to wash often enough is their eyelids. Keeping your eyelids clean helps protect you from certain eye diseases, and keeps debris that can contribute to dry eye syndrome out of your eyes. It’s best to wash your eyelids in the morning and before bed using soap (baby shampoo works well) and warm water. Cleansing eyelid wipes are also available, and can be found at drugstores.

Eye makeup can cause allergies, and makes a good place for bacteria to grow. If eye makeup is more than three months, old, it is best to replace it. Clean your face thoroughly before and after wearing makeup.

1 Merle, Bénédicte & Benlian, Pascale & Puche, Nathalie & Bassols, Ana & Delcourt, Cécile & Souied, Eric. (2014). Circulating Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Neovascular Age-Related Macular Degeneration. Investigative ophthalmology & visual science. 55. 10.1167/iovs.14-13916.

2 Khan JC, Thurlby DA, Shahid H, et al. Smoking and age related macular degeneration: the number of pack years of cigarette smoking is a major determinant of risk for both geographic atrophy and choroidal neovascularization. British Journal of Ophthalmology 2006;90:75-80.

3 Christen WG, Manson JE, Seddon JM, et al. A Prospective Study of Cigarette Smoking and Risk of Cataract in Men. JAMA. 1992;268(8):989–993. doi:10.1001/jama.1992.03490080063025

4 Hankinson SE, Willett WC, Colditz GA, et al. A Prospective Study of Cigarette Smoking and Risk of Cataract Surgery in Women. JAMA. 1992;268(8):994–998. doi:10.1001/jama.1992.03490080068026

5 Phoebe Lin, Allison R. Loh, Todd P. Margolis, Nisha R. Acharya, Cigarette Smoking as a Risk Factor for Uveitis. Ophthalmology, 117:3 2010, 585-590. ISSN 0161-6420

6 Eliasson B. Cigarette smoking and diabetes. Prog Cardiovasc Dis. 2003 Mar-Apr;45(5):405-13. doi: 10.1053/pcad.2003.00103. PMID: 12704597.

7 Moss SE, Klein R, Klein BE. Prevalence of and risk factors for dry eye syndrome. Arch Ophthalmol. 2000 Sep;118(9):1264-8. doi: 10.1001/archopht.118.9.1264. PMID: 10980773.

8 American Academy of Ophthalmology. Another reason to exercise: protecting your sight.  Press release, November 13, 2017

9 Colberg, Sheri R et al. “Exercise and type 2 diabetes: the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Diabetes Association: joint position statement.” Diabetes care vol. 33,12 (2010): e147-67. doi:10.2337/dc10-9990

10 Klein R, Klein BE, Knudtson MD, Meuer SM, Swift M, Gangnon RE. Fifteen-Year Cumulative Incidence of Age-Related Macular Degeneration. Ophthalmology. 2007;114(2):253-262. doi:10.1016/j.ophtha.2006.10.040.