Did you know that March is Save Your Vision Month? Originally organized by the American Optometric Association, their goal was to raise awareness about eye health and encourage eye exams. The simple truth is that we don’t think about our eyes all that much unless we have to. We wake up, open them and we continue on with our day.
Only when they begin to burn, itch, sting, strain, do we think, “Maybe I should call a doctor…” But why wait until it’s too late? Your eyes are precious and complex which means damage can be done more easily and have a greater impact on your health than other body parts. A sense as cherished as sight is not something to take advantage of. What you can take advantage of are these six tips to save your vision this March!
- Get Your Eyes Checked
This may seem like an obvious tip, but more people than you’d think opt out of their yearly eye check-ups. The main reason for this is because people think they don’t need it. Our bodies’ natural reaction to problems is pain. When you have a stomach ache, you know something is wrong. You drink some herbal tea or ginger ale to settle your stomach. More often than not, the ache will subside and you’ll be back to normal in no time!
Your eyes are a little different. Staring at a screen for work or leisure day in and day out can cause eye discomfort, but for some reason we all have a tendency to ignore the discomfort, take a short break from our screens and then jump right back in. Though the discomfort may not be as persistent as a stomach ache, the damage can be permanent whether we feel it or not.
This is where an eye exam comes in. Regular eye exams are important for catching eye diseases and conditions early, before they cause permanent damage and vision loss. In addition, your doctor could recommend treatments to prevent your vision conditions from developing any further and stop futures ones. Of course doctors don’t exclusively offer bad news; your eye doctor may give your eyes raving reviews!
Eye exams, though important for everyone, are especially important for children and those with existing conditions. It’s recommended to get your eyes checked once a year, or more often if you already have a condition (around two to three times a year). Children need regular eye exams to make sure their eyes are developing properly.
- Eat Vision-enhancing Foods
One of the best ways to take care of your eyes (and overall health) is to eat foods packed with beneficial nutrients. The best part is that these nutrients can be found in everyday foods like spinach, citrus fruits, melons, broccoli, salmon, carrots and so much more! All these superfoods have just what your eyes need to keep strong and working right.
Salmon is a personal favorite of mine. Not only is it delicious, but it’s loaded with omega-3 fatty acid which helps with dry eyes and preventing age-related macular degeneration. Salmon is such a versatile food that you can cook it in a soup, as a filet, or in a salad!
For those not too keen on consuming fish, don’t worry, your eyes can get the same benefits from vegetables. Carrots and spinach are stars in the eye health community. With high amounts of vitamin A and lutein, these two foods help keep the cornea strong to prevent blindness. These too can be consumed in soups, in salads, sautés and even raw.
We live in a busy world and some of us just don’t have the time to cook and prepare these meals every day. Luckily there are supplements available that allow you to get the nutrients and vitamins you need in a hurry.
- Give the Screens a Rest
Our eyes are very sensitive to light and when most of us spend hours and hours every day in front of a computer or a smartphone, it can have dire consequences on our eyes. Digital eye strain, a fairly recent phenomenon, is caused by exactly that; too much screen time. Give your eyes a break and set down the phones and laptops for a while. Try the 10-10-10 Rule when spending long periods of time in front of the screen.
A large part of digital eye strain is due to the fact that screens use artificial light, something that is a new technology that our eyes are not used to yet. Therefore when we stare at this artificial light for long periods of time, we get headaches and eye strain. Try lowering the brightness of your screen or installing a filter on your computer that mimics natural light.
Another trick is to make the font size on your smartphones and computers a smidge bigger. This will let your eyes relax as they read the words on the screen as they won’t have to strain to focus on the tiny writing. You’ll also be able to get more work done if you don’t need to take frequent breaks to grab some water or an ice pack for your pounding headache.
- Wear the Right Eye Protection
This is one of the most important parts of protecting eyes, but a lot of people don’t do. From those who play sports, to gardeners, to people who spend their days basking in the sun; everyone needs the appropriate protection for their eyes.
Sports, especially can become quite rough. Though most of us are concerned about broken limbs and twisted ankles, but only after they happen, do we become concerned about eye injuries. Eye injuries are very severe and can take long to heal.
According to the American Family Physician, more than 40,000 eye injuries happened each year due to sports. Basketball and baseball are among the most dangerous sports for the eyes, but rarely do we see even professionals playing with the proper eye protection (such as sports goggles).
Protection also includes wearing goggles when gardening or other outdoor home maintenance to avoid getting debris and dirt flung into your eyes. Sunglasses are also great for protecting your eyes from harmful UV rays. Have you ever experienced and eyeball sunburn? It’s painful just like any other sunburn, but you can’t rub lotion on your eyes to sooth the discomfort. Don’t skip the sunglasses.
- Kick that Cigarette Habit
Cigarettes are not good for you in any way, shape or form. They’re addictive, they yellow your teeth and skin, and above all they destroy your vision. It’s a tough habit to kick, but you’ll feel a million times better once you do.
Smoking can cause several severe eye conditions like cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, and uveitis. Don’t let a bad habit ruin your vision. Talk to your doctor for support and ways to start a new and healthier life by quitting.
Although March is the official month to bring awareness to saving your vision, it’s important to take care all year round for the sharpest eyes. Don’t forget that you need your eyes as much as they need you.