They say eyes are the windows to the soul because they provide insights about a person’s emotions. If eyes are the windows, pupils are the openings, similar to the aperture on a camera, dilating or contracting to regulate light entering the eye. Did you know pupils dilate when a person gets excited? Pupils are at the center of the iris, the pigmented part of the eye responsible for the color. The different parts of the eye work together like a sophisticated, well-oiled machine. The iris, retina, cornea, lens, optic nerve, macula, and other parts of the eye are subject to disease and injury. It’s important to take good care of your eyes to avoid problems with individual parts. Here are 10 simple ways to protect the windows to your soul.
- Get regular eye exams: Many common eye diseases such as glaucoma, diabetic eye disease, and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) often begin without obvious symptoms. If you go to the eye doctor regularly, these diseases can be detected in early stages and vision loss can be prevented or slowed down.
- Eat a healthy diet: A diet rich in fruits and vegetables, especially dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale, or collard greens is good for eye health. Research shows eating fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, tuna, and halibut can also benefit your eyes.
- Get regular exercise: Exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight and control blood pressure and cholesterol levels. This can help lower your risk of developing eye problems such as diabetic retinopathy and associated loss of sight.
- Quit smoking or never start: Smokers are four times as likely as non-smokers to develop macular degeneration and twice as likely to get cataracts. If you can’t quit, a supplement with a specific combination of antioxidants and vitamins for eye health can help combat damaging free radicals from cigarettes (e.g. Ocuvite® by Bausch & Lomb and ICaps® by Alcon). There are many formulas, so check with your eye doctor for a recommendation.
- Know your family history: You may be at increased risk of developing eye diseases that run in families such as glaucoma and AMD. There is evidence other conditions such as strabismus (crossed eyes), amblyopia (lazy eye), myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), and astigmatism have a genetic basis. So if you have any of these conditions, it’s important to keep an eye out for potential vision problems in your children or grandchildren.
- Wear protective eye gear: Injuries can happen in the blink of an eye. Purchase and wear polycarbonate safety glasses, goggles, safety shields, and eye guards specially designed for the activity you are participating in (e.g. skiing, working with power tools, welding, etc.).
- Take proper care of contact lenses: Do not sleep in contacts unless they are approved for overnight wear. Do not use saliva or water as a wetting solution or expired solutions. Using disposable contact lenses beyond their wear or decorative contact lenses (also called colored lenses) can result in corneal ulcers, severe pain, and even vision loss.
- Wear sunglasses: UV rays from sunlight are a serious risk factor for cataracts. Sunglasses prevent retinal damage, skin cancer around the eye, cancerous and non-cancerous growths on the eye, and protect delicate eyelids from wrinkles. Buy sunglasses that block 100% of UV-A rays and UV-B rays. Make sure your children wear sunglasses, since eye damage is cumulative.
- Rest your eyes: To reduce eyestrain, take breaks. If you work on a computer for long periods, try the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look away about 20 feet in front of you for 20 seconds.
- Keep eyes moist: Dry eyes cause discomfort, and furthermore, inadequate tear production can lead to a higher risk of infections. In winter months or arid climates, a humidifier can improve dry indoor air conditions and help alleviate dry eye. Moisturizing eye drops or replacement tears can also relieve dry eyes.
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