March is National Save Your Vision Month. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, more than 20 million Americans suffer from severe vision loss. While not all eye diseases can be prevented, you can take steps now to help keep your eyes healthy and reduce the chances of vision loss in the future.
- Schedule an annual eye exam. Thorough examination of the adult eye can reveal problems such as glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration and cataracts, as well as evidence of vascular disease. Exams for children are also important and can screen for disease as well as ensure they have optimally corrected vision to aid in school performance.
- Wear sunglasses. The AAO recommends wearing UV-blocking sunglasses whenever you’re out in the sun—at any time of the year. Sunglasses should provide 99 to 100 percent protection from UVA and UVB radiation. Wide-brimmed hats, caps and visors can also provide protection.
- Follow the 20-20-20 rule. If you regularly spend long hours reading or in front of a computer screen, take a quick break every 20 minutes. Look away from your book or screen and focus on something about 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Artificial tears lubricant drops also may be used to help eye comfort during long periods of computer use.
- Protect your eyes. Wear protective eye wear such as safety glasses, goggles, safety shields and eye guards when indicated. Whether protective eye wear is acquired with or without prescription, the lenses and frames should follow Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidelines for impact tolerance.
- Be aware of family health history. There are numerous eye diseases that have a hereditary component, including glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration. Any information about your family health history that is offered to your eye care provider is valuable.
- Don’t smoke. Smoking increases the risk for vision loss caused by age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, dry eye syndrome and other conditions.
- Eat right and maintain a healthy weight. Diets that are rich in fruits and vegetables, particularly dark, leafy greens, may promote eye health and help protect your vision. Dietary intake of omega-3 fats—found in salmon, tuna, flaxseed, walnuts and beans—are also beneficial. Being overweight increases the risk for glaucoma and diabetes, which can lead to vision loss.
- Care for contact lenses properly. Always wash your hands before touching contact lenses and follow your eye doctor’s recommendations for their use, care, replacement and storage. Lenses should be removed immediately if redness, pain or vision changes occur. Consult your eye care provider any time a contact lens-related issue arises.