Samantha Heller MS RD
Jeepers, creepers where’d you get those peepers?
Jeepers, creepers, where’d you get those eyes?
(Harry Warren, Johnny Mercer)
While the eyes may be the windows to one’s soul, if they are not cared for properly your view of the world may be cloudy, dark or even totally obscured. Food, computers and makeup can all affect eye health. Here are some tips to help keep your eyes healthy for the fore-see-able future and beyond.
1) Have periodic eye exams. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends the following if you do not have any risk factors for eye disease such as diabetes or a family history of eye disease:
Ages 3-19 Every one to two years
Ages 20-39 at least twice in this time frame
Ages 40-64 Every 2-4 years
Over 65 Every one to two years
If you do have risk factors see your eye care professional more frequently.
2) Reducing the risk of macular degeneration. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a disease of the eye that is the leading cause of blindness for people aged 65 years and older and affects more than 10 million Americans. AMD is caused by a deterioration of the retina. Risk factors for AMD include older age, white race, and smoking.
There are two types of AMD: dry and wet. The dry type of AMD is more common and is associated with small, yellow deposits (drusen) in the macula (the macula is a light sensitive spot in the center of the retina which is in the back of the eye). Dry AMD causes the macula to lose its function. The most common symptom of dry AMD is blurred central vision that worsens slowly. If dry AMD affects only one eye, symptoms may not be noticeable. Wet AMD accounts for approximately 15% of all cases of the disease. In wet AMD, abnormal blood vessels beneath the macula start to leak fluid, causing the retina to become distorted. This type of AMD can be severe and rapid. A common symptom of wet AMD is that straight lines appear wavy, and central vision degrades rapidly.
The National Eye Institute reports that healthy eating may have a positive effect on eye health. Many scientific studies have found a link between eating foods rich in carotenoids – such as lutein and zeaxanthin including green, leafy vegetables such as collard greens, kale, and spinach — and a reduced risk of developing AMD and cataracts. The AREDS study found that following a low glycemic diet, meaning whole grains, vegetables, legumes, fruits and lean protein, was associated with a reduced risk of AMD.
Healthy compounds such as vitamins E, C, A, beta carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, selenium, zinc, magnesium, vitamin B6 and folic acid help keep eyes healthy. These vitamins, minerals and antioxidants are found in colorful fruits and vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, spinach, berries, peppers and oranges.
3) Wear sunglasses with 100% UV protection. ultraviolet rays from sunlight may contribute to cataracts, cornea damage and even macular degeneration. Use photochromatic lenses if you do not want to have to change glasses every time you go in and outside.
4) We all spend far to much time staring at our computer screens. It is a good idea to get a computer eye exam. Prolonged use of a computer screen can result in what has become known as computer vision syndrome (CVS). The most common symptoms include headaches, focusing difficulties, burning eyes, tired eyes, general eyestrain, aching eyes, dry eyes, double vision, blurred vision, light sensitivity, and neck and shoulder pain.
Computer eyestrain is often caused by excessively bright light coming in from outside and excessively bright light inside. When you use a computer, your ambient lighting should be about half that used in most offices.
Eliminate exterior light by closing drapes, shades, or blinds. Using fewer light bulbs or florescent bulbs or use lower intensity bulbs can reduce glare caused by overhead lighting.
Place your monitor directly in front of you, not off to one side. Optimally, it should be about 20 to 28 inches away from you.
5) Throw out your old makeup! Replace mascara and eyeliner every 3 months and all other eye make up every 6 months. If you develop an eye infection see your physician right away and discard any make up you have been using. Don’t share eye makeup.
6) Contact lenses.
• Wash and dry your hands before handling lenses
• Keep your contact lens case clean and replace it every 3-6 months
• Do not use spit to lubricate you lenses
7) If you have diabetes keep your blood sugars in control. High blood sugars can damage sensitive eye structures like the retina and the optic nerve.