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Eye Health—What You Need To Know


Unfortunately, eye health isn’t as simple as an extra helping of carrots—most eye diseases don’t present any symptoms or warning signs, and it can take a regularly scheduled eye exam to identify potential health complications. About 93 million adults in the United States are at high risk for vision loss, but only half visited an eye doctor in the past year. Luckily, the CDC estimates that about fifty percent of visual impairment and blindness cases can be prevented through early diagnosis and timely treatment.

What’s My Risk?

Vision loss ranks among the top 10 causes of disability in the US, and with an aging population and an expected increase in chronic diseases like diabetes that cause vision loss, those numbers are expected to double by 2050. Your family history is a large predictor of your eye health, as many ocular conditions are hereditary. If you are able, ask your family about their eye health, and be sure to keep your doctor up to date on what you learn. Additionally, if you take any medications that have serious eye side effects, you should be sure to monitor your health with a regular eye exam.

A few other risk factors for eye conditions include chronic conditions like diabetes and habits like smoking and prolonged exposure to sunlight. Age also plays a role – our risk for visual impairment and blindness increases as we get older. Over the age of 40, we’re especially susceptible to macular degeneration, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma. 90% of blindness caused by diabetes is preventable, so early detection is key. For glaucoma detection, doctors recommend a dilated eye exam every one or two years. The prevalence of any eye-related condition increases with age, but racial and ethnic health disparities can put African Americans, Native Americans, and Hispanic and Latino Americans at greater risk for vision loss as well.

Taking Care of Yourself

What’s good for your body is good for your eyes, too! Adopting habits like these can improve your eye health:

  • Eat healthy foods. Dark, leafy greens, like spinach, kale, or collards, and foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, tuna, or halibut, are especially good for our eyes. Maintaining a healthy weight can help our eye health as well, as being overweight or obese increases the risk of developing diabetes and other conditions that can lead to future ocular issues.
  • Get active! Much like a healthy diet, physical activity lowers the risk of health conditions that can cause health or vision problems. Getting 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise 5 days a week lowers your risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. If you’re short on time, remember that even a little exercise is better than none!
  • Quit smoking (or don’t start). Smoking can lead to increased risk of age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, and optic nerve damage – all of which can lead to blindness. It can also raise blood sugar, so if you have diabetes and smoke, you’re more likely to develop diabetes-related health complications like heart and kidney disease, nerve damage, and diabetic retinopathy.

Protecting Your Eyes

You can take extra steps to protect your vision from the outside in:

  • Wear sunglasses to block the damage caused by the sun’s ultraviolet rays. When purchasing sunglasses, look for pairs that block out 99 to 100% of UV-A and UV-B radiation.
  • Wear protective eyewear if you play sports or work in an environment that requires safety goggles. Make sure you and your teammates or coworkers hold each other accountable to prevent eye injury.
  • Rest your eyes to combat screen fatigue. Follow the 20-20-20 rule – every 20 minutes, look away about 20 feet in front of you for 20 seconds. 
  • If you wear contacts, take steps to prevent infection. Wash your hands thoroughly before inserting or taking out contact lenses and don’t sleep in them unless a doctor prescribed you to do so. Don’t swim or shower in them, as water can introduce germs to the eyes, and use only fresh solution in your contact lens case. Be sure to replace them regularly!

You can learn more about eye health or schedule an appointment with us at our Vision Medical Services page. Remember, early detection is key to vision health.