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March 14, 2016

5 Easy Ways to Protect Your Vision

by Amanda MacMillan

Did you know that eye exams are an important part of your overall health -- even if you have perfect vision? It’s true: Starting at age 40, every adult should see an optometrist or ophthalmologist at least once every two to four years. As you get older (or develop vision problems), that frequency should increase.

“A lot of eye-related conditions -- like glaucoma or age-related macular degeneration -- don’t cause symptoms until they’re quite advanced,” says ophthalmologist Carolyn Shih, MD, assistant clinical professor at Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine. “If we catch them early, we can treat them or prevent them from getting worse.”

In case that’s not enough to convince you, eye exams may also help identify health problems that have nothing to do with your vision -- like diabetes, multiple sclerosis, even a brain tumor. “Examination of the eye’s retinal blood vessel or the optic nerve can tell us a lot about what’s going on elsewhere in the body, even if you don’t feel anything out of the ordinary,” adds Shih. 

March is Save Your Vision Month. If you’re 40 or older and can’t remember the last time you had a comprehensive eye exam, make an appointment to get one soon. In the meantime, here are four more easy ways to protect your peepers every day.

Sport the right sunglasses. Exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays can increase your risk for cataracts and macular degeneration. Choose lenses that promise to block 99 to 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays, and wear them year-round -- not just in the summer.

Follow the 20-20-20 rule. To avoid eye strain while working on an electronic device, take a 20-second break every 20 minutes and look at something 20 feet away.

Practice good eye-giene. If you wear contact lenses, always wash your hands before putting them in or taking them out. Be sure to disinfect your contacts between uses, and never wear them for longer than instructed.

Watch the scale. Being overweight can raise your risk for diabetic eye disease and glaucoma. Talk to your doctor about how diet and exercise changes can help you shed unwanted pounds.