Eye health

Healthy eyes help support a healthy body

You may know that maintaining a healthy diet and regularly moving your body is good for your health, but did you know it may also be good for your eyes, too? Zinc and omega-3 fatty acids and protein found in salmon and tuna, along with eggs and fruits and veggies (particularly spinach) are great for eye health, as is getting regular exercise and adequate sleep.1 There are other ways you might protect and preserve your eyesight as you age.

It is possible to keep your eyes healthy at every stage of life. To schedule a screening or eye exam, contact your vision care provider or find a doctor.

Ways to help protect your vision

  • Turn off electronic devices before bed. Bedrooms should be “screen-free” zones for kids.2
  • Take care of the surfaces of your eyes. Your eyes might feel tired after staring at a screen because you aren’t blinking enough. Take a break and rest your eyes. Follow the 20-20-20 rule: Take a 20-second break every 20 minutes and look at something 20 feet off in the distance.3
  • If you smoke, consider quitting. Smoking increases the risk of serious eye conditions.4 Quit For Life® has helped 4 million members successfully quit smoking, e-cigarettes, vaping, nicotine and tobacco – and it may help you too.
    Get the support to help you quit
  • Wear sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats that block ultraviolet (UV) radiation when exposed to sunlight—in summer and in winter.
  • Don’t sleep in your contacts. This may lead to an eye infection.
  • Adjust the lighting to your task, including the brightness on your computer screen and the light when you’re reading.5
  • Throw away eye makeup after three months to help prevent infection-causing bacteria buildup.6
  • Consider eyeglasses or contact lenses that might be designed for computer work. Special blue light computer reading glasses are made with an anti-reflective coating to reduce glare, and a tint to increase contrast.
  • Wear protective eyewear when playing sports that involve a ball or racquet. It is recommended that kids also protect their eyes when playing with toys such as NERF™ guns, air guns or bow and arrows.7
  • Wear safety glasses when using power tools for grinding metal or cutting wood. These glasses may protect your eyes from dangerous particles that might cause longlasting damage.

If you notice changes in your vision, or if it’s been a while since you had your eyes checked, you may want to consider scheduling an appointment for a comprehensive, dilated eye exam.

When should children have their eyes examined? When should you make that first appointment?

It is recommended that infants have comprehensive eye exams around six months. The American Optometric Association, or AOA, recommends additional eye exams at age 3, then again at age 5. School-aged children (after age 5) should have an eye exam at least every two years, if no vision correction is required.8

Some common vision issues in children

Some vision issues that may start in early childhood are treatable when identified, such as amblyopia, when one eye is weaker than the other, an issue that may lead to long-term vision problems. Other common pediatric eye issues may include:

  • Astigmatism/farsightedness/nearsightedness—abnormalities of surface of the eye that prevent light from being properly focused on the retina
  • Excessive tearing/epiphora—due to blockage of the tear drainage system
  • Double vision
  • Genetic eye disease
  • Pediatric cataracts
  • Pediatric glaucoma

If your pediatrician or family doctor thinks there may be an issue, your child may be referred to a pediatric eye doctor. Many vision problems in kids can be treated successfully if caught early.9

When should you have your eyes examined as an adult?

How often should you have your eyes checked as you get older? Routine eye screenings are crucial to preserving your sight. The good news is that many vision insurance plans cover part or all the cost of these exams. Even if you may be feeling healthy and have no symptoms of vision problems, and you don’t wear glasses, contacts or have a family history of eye disease, it might be a good idea to have your eyes checked:10

Before age 40: Every two to four years

From age 40 to age 54: Every one to three years

From age 55 to 64: Every one to two years

After age 65: Every six to 12 months

If you notice changes in your vision, or if it’s been a while since you had your eyes checked, you may want to consider scheduling an appointment for a comprehensive, dilated eye exam.

Find a vision care provider

Common eye diseases as you get older

Getting older may not mean that you’ll lose your vision. Most common conditions can be treated, delayed or reversed if your eye doctor identifies the problem early in its development. According to the National Eye Institute (a division of the National Institutes of Health), glaucoma, macular degeneration and cataracts are the most common eye diseases in those 40 and older.10 It’s important to have regular screenings for these diseases.

Glaucoma

According to the CDC, glaucoma is the name given to group of conditions that damage the optic nerve at the back of the eye (the one that sends visual signals to. the brain). While there is no cure for glaucoma and typically no symptoms to serve as warning signs, if it’s recognized in the early stages—through regular eye screenings— you can save your remaining eyesight.11

Macular degeneration

It’s estimated that 1.8 million Americans age 40 and older are affected by Age-related Macular Degeneration.12 Associated with aging, this slow-moving and painless eye disorder is the leading cause of severe vision loss in people over 60—affecting more people than glaucoma and cataracts combined.13 It occurs when the macula, a small part of the retina (the light-sensing nerve tissue at the back of the eye), deteriorates. There is no cure for macular degeneration, but early detection and treatment may slow the progression of vision loss.

Health and lifestyle factors may impact your vision

Diabetes and your vision

Diabetes may affect your eyes, causing blurred vision. When blood sugar levels go up, blood vessels in the eyes get thicker and may make it difficult to focus. The swelling is often temporary, with vision returning as glucose levels return to normal. When you have diabetes, it’s common for an ophthalmologist to perform special examinations to make sure your eyes stay as healthy as possible long into the future.14

Computer vision syndrome

These days, it’s nearly impossible to get away from staring at computers, tablets, video games, TVs and cell phones. Computer vision syndrome (CVS), or digital eye strain, may be a common side effect.15

Footnotes

  1. Adult Health: Sleep www.mayoclinic.org, 2019.
  2. Where We Stand: Screen Time www.healthchildren.org, 2016.
  3. Computer vision syndrome www.aoa.org, 2020.
  4. Vision Loss, Blindness, and Smoking www.cdc.gov, 2020.
  5. Eyestrain www.mayoclinic.org, 2020.
  6. How To Use Cosmetics Safely Around Your Eyes www.aao.org, 2019.
  7. Perfect Vision? 20 Tips to Keep It That Way www.aao.org, 2020.
  8. Eye Health for Life www.aoa.org, 2020.
  9. Detecting and Treating Eye Problems Early Can Help Kids in the Classroom preventblindness.org, 2017.
  10. Eye Exam: Overview www.mayoclinic.org, 2019.
  11. Vision Health Frequently Asked Questions www.cdc.gov, 2020.
  12. What is Macular Degeneration? www.macular.org, 2020.
  13. Cataracts www.nei.nih.gov, 2019.
  14. Diabetes blurry vision www.healthline.com, 2020.
  15. Computer vision syndrome www.aoa.org, 2020.