Our eyes are so important to us, yet we often take them for granted. Getting older increases your risk of some eye diseases. You might also have a higher risk of some eye diseases if you are overweight, have a family history of eye disease, or are American, Hispanic, or Native American.
Other health conditions, like diabetes or high blood pressure, can also increase your risk of some eye diseases. Many eye diseases don’t have any symptoms or warning signs.
Know your family’s health history
Talk with your family members to find out if they’ve had any eye problems. Some eye diseases and conditions run in families, like age related macular degeneration or glaucoma, and tell your doctor if any eye diseases run in your family. There are many things that can be done to keep the eyes healthy. The most obvious and most critical thing is to have a full eye test, with your doctor or optician. The exam is simple and painless and includes:
- A visual acuity test to check how clearly you see. Your doctor will ask you to read letters that are up close and far away.
- A visual field test to check your peripheral (side) vision. Your doctor will test how well you can see objects off to the sides of your vision without moving your eyes.
- An eye muscle function test to check for problems with the muscles around your eyeballs. Your doctor will move an object around and ask you to follow it with your eyes.
- A pupil response test to check how light enters your eyes. Your doctor will shine a small flashlight into your eyes and check how your pupils react to the light.
- A tonometry test to measure the pressure in your eyes. Your doctor will use a machine to blow a quick puff of air onto your eye, or gently touch your eye with a special tool. Don’t worry — it doesn’t hurt!
- Dilation to check for problems with the inner parts of your eye. Your doctor will give you some eye drops to dilate (widen) your pupil. This helps the doctor see inside your eye.
Self help is also hugely important
Protecting your overall health can go a long way toward keeping your eyes healthy! It’s important to make healthy choices and take good care of yourself.
Here are a few tips:
- Eat healthy foods. Eat plenty of dark, leafy greens like spinach, kale, and collard greens. Eating fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids — like salmon, tuna, and halibut — is good for your eyes, too.
- Get active. Being physically active helps you stay healthy and lowers your risk of health conditions that can cause eye health or vision problems — like diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
- Quit smoking. It can not only damage your lungs but it can hurt your eyes, too! Smoking increases your risk of diseases like macular degeneration and cataracts
- Protect your eyes
- Every day, you can take simple steps such as:
- Wear sunglasses. Protect your eyes from the sun by wearing sunglasses — even on cloudy days! Look for sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of both UVA and UVB radiation.
- Wear protective eyewear. Safety glasses and goggles are designed to protect your eyes during certain activities, like playing sports, doing construction work, or doing home repairs.
- Give your eyes a rest. Looking at a computer for a long time can tire out your eyes. Rest your eyes by taking a break every 20 minutes to look at something about 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
- If you wear contacts, always wash your hands before taking them in or out. Be sure to disinfect your contact lenses and replace them regularly.