9 Tips for Healthy Eyes, Healthy Vision

Protect your eyes with these tips from the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health (USA).

1. See your eye care provider regularly.

Eye exam recommendations vary with age and risk for eye and vision problems. Generally, adults should have their eyes checked every 2 years until the age of 60, and yearly after that. Children and adults at increased risk for eye problems should have exams more frequently.

2. Have dilated eye exams as part of your routine health care.

According to the CDC, dilated eye exams are necessary to detect certain conditions—including glaucoma and AMD—early and help prevent vision loss. Your eye care provider will place drops in your eyes to widen your pupils—allowing him or her to examine your eyes more thoroughly.

3. Know your family's health history.

Many conditions that cause, or increase the risk for, vision loss are hereditary (genetic). Talk to your family and share information with your eye care provider to take additional steps—for example, more frequent eye exams and diagnostic tests—to help protect your eyes and preserve your vision.

4. Don’t smoke.

Studies show that smoking damages blood vessels—including those in and around the eyes—and increases the risk for vision loss caused by age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, dry eye syndrome, and other conditions. Quit smoking—or better yet, don't start—to help keep your eyes healthy.

5. Eat right and maintain a healthy weight.

A diet rich in fruits and vegetables—especially dark, leafy greens—and omega-3 fats—found in salmon, tuna, flaxseed, walnuts, beans, and other sources—may promote eye health and help protect your vision. Overweight/obesity increases the risk for conditions like glaucoma and diabetes, which can lead to vision loss.

6. Wear sunglasses.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends wearing UV-blocking sunglasses whenever you’re out in the sun—at any time of the year. Sunglasses should provide 99–100 percent protection from UVA and UVB radiation. A wide-brimmed hat, cap, or visor also can help protect your eyes from the sun.

7. Rest your eyes.

Follow the 20-20-20 rule if you regularly spend long hours reading or in front of a computer screen. Every 20 minutes, look away from your book or screen and focus on something about 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Blink often to refresh your eyes and help reduce eyestrain.

8. Protect your eyes.

Wear protective eye wear—safety glasses, goggles, safety shields, eye guards—when necessary at work, at home and at play. Protective eye wear, which is usually made of strong plastic (polycarbonate), can be found at most home improvement stores, sporting good stores, or through your eye care provider.

9. If you wear contact lenses, care for them properly.

Follow your eye care provider's recommendations and labeling instructions for the use, care, and storage of your contact lenses and lens care products. Wash your hands before touching your lenses. Remove them immediately and call your eye care professional if your eyes become irritated or your vision changes.

Proper Care of Contact Lenses

While contact lenses are safely used by millions of people every day, they do carry a risk of eye infection. Factors contributing to infection can include:

– Use of extended-wear lenses;
– Reduced tear exchange under the lens;
– Environmental factors;
– Poor hygiene.

The single best way to avoid eye infections is to follow proper lens care guidelines as prescribed by your eye care professional. In particular, including a “rub and rinse” step in the lens cleaning process, minimizing contact with water while wearing contact lenses and replacing the lens case frequently can help reduce the risk of infection.

Taking Care of Your Lenses

Regardless of the type you decide on, proper care of the lenses is essential to eye health.

- Before handling contact lenses, wash your hands with soap and water, then rinse and dry them with a lint-free towel. - Minimize contact with water, including removing lenses before going swimming or in a hot tub. - Contact lenses should not be rinsed with or stored in water (tap or sterile water). - Do not put your lenses in your mouth to wet them. Saliva is not a sterile solution. - Do not use saline solution and rewetting drops to disinfect lenses. Neither is an effective or approved disinfectant. - Wear and replace contact lenses according to the schedule prescribed by your eye care professional. - Follow the specific contact lens cleaning and storage guidelines from your eye care professional and the solution manufacturer. - During cleaning, rub your contact lenses with your fingers, then rinse the lenses with solution before soaking them. This "rub and rinse" method is considered by some experts to be a superior method of cleaning, even if the solution you are using is a "no-rub" variety. - Rinse the contact lens case with fresh solution — not water. Then leave the empty case open to air dry. - Keep the contact lens case clean and replace it regularly, at least every three months. - Lens cases can be a source of contamination and infection. Do not use cracked or damaged lens cases.

Handle your contact lens solution with care:

Some experts recommend that if you use contact lenses sporadically you consider using single-use daily disposable lenses

Some experts recommend that if you use contact lenses sporadically you consider using single-use daily disposable lenses.

Taking Care of Your Eyes

Eye infections can lead to serious vision loss in some cases. Proper care of your eyes is just as important as proper lens care.

– Remove the contact lenses and consult an ophthalmologist immediately if you experience symptoms such as redness, pain, tearing, increased light sensitivity, blurry vision, discharge or swelling.
– If you smoke, stop. Studies show that contact lens wearers who smoke have a higher rate of problems than nonsmokers.
– Beware of using decorative lenses, such as those often sold at costume shops. These lenses have the potential to damage eyes permanently.
– Get regular eye exams. If you wear contact lenses, you should be examined by an eye care provider annually, and more often as needed.

As with any prescription, contact lens prescriptions do expire — typically within one year.

You should see your eye care professional yearly to ensure they continue to have an accurate and appropriate prescription. These regular exams are also important opportunities for reinforcing proper lens care.

Written by: Kierstan Boyd
American Academy of Ophthalmology