Facts/Did You Know

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Have regular physical exams to check for diabetes and high blood pressure. If left untreated, these diseases can cause eye problems. In particular, diabetes and high blood pressure can lead to vision loss from diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, and eye strokes.

• Find out if you are at a higher risk for eye diseases. Be aware of your family’s health history. Do you or any of your family suffer from diabetes or have a history of high blood pressure? Are you over age 60? Any of these traits increases your risk for sight-threatening eye diseases.

• Exercise frequently. Studies suggest that regular exercise — such as brisk walking — can reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration by up to 70 percent.

• Protect your eyes from harmful UV light. When outdoors during daytime, always wear sunglasses that shield your eyes from 100 percent of the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. This may help reduce your risk of cataracts, pinguecula, and other eye problems.

• Around the world, about 39 million people are blind and roughly 6 times that many have some kind of vision impairment.

• Look for warning signs of changes in your vision. If you start noticing changes in your vision, see your eye doctor immediately. Some trouble signs to look for are double vision, hazy vision and difficulty seeing in low light conditions. Other signs and symptoms of potentially serious eye problems that warrant immediate attention include red eyes, frequent flashes of light, floaters, and eye pain and swelling.

• Eat right to protect your sight. Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, particularly dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale, or collard greens is important for keeping your eyes healthy, too. Research has also shown there are eye health benefits from eating fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, tuna, and halibut.

• Quit smoking or never start. Smoking is as bad for your eyes as it is for the rest of your body. Research has linked smoking to an increased risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, cataract, and optic nerve damage, all of which can lead to blindness.

• Clean your hands and your contact lenses–properly. To avoid the risk of infection, always wash your hands thoroughly before putting in or taking out your contact lenses. Make sure to disinfect contact lenses as instructed and replace them as appropriate.

• Give your eyes a rest. If you spend a lot of time at the computer or focusing on any one thing, you sometimes forget to blink and your eyes can get fatigued. Try the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, look away about 20 feet in front of you for 20 seconds. This can help reduce eyestrain.

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